EPA orders Merck to address persistent problem of bad odours from east Cork plant

The State environmental watchdog has instructed a leading medical science and technology firm to take “significant action” to address the persistent problem of bad odours coming from its plant in east Cork.
EPA orders Merck to address persistent problem of bad odours from east Cork plant

The Merck facility in Carrigtowhill. The problem has been linked to the odour abatement in the factory’s wastewater treatment plant. Picture: Google
The Merck facility in Carrigtowhill. The problem has been linked to the odour abatement in the factory’s wastewater treatment plant. Picture: Google

The State environmental watchdog has instructed a leading medical science and technology firm to take “significant action” to address the persistent problem of bad odours coming from its plant in east Cork.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has confirmed that it is still recording damp and musty odours during inspections of the Merck Millipore factory in Carrigtwohill.

The EPA has been monitoring the situation since it first became aware of complaints of bad smells at the Tullagreen plant before Christmas.

It said its inspectors were still detecting bad smells downwind of the site during three visits to the facility between May 18 and May 24.

“These assessments confirm that the odour nuisance caused by Merck Millipore continues to impact the local community in the vicinity of the facility,” the EPA said.

It claimed the measures taken by the company to date had not been effective in preventing or lessening the problem of odours coming from the plant.

Merck had installed a new carbon filter unit in April which appeared to have reduced the level of odours for a period.

The company said remediation plans to address the odour issue at the site are ongoing.

However, the EPA said timeframes proposed by Merck for further required works to address the issue were too long.

Significant action is required in the short-term to eliminate odour impact in the Carrigtwohill area,” it added.

The problem has been linked to the odour abatement in the factory’s wastewater treatment plant with the EPA stating parts of the equipment were unsuitable and needed to be changed.

Following a recent compliance meeting with Merck management, the EPA has instructed the company to reduce discharges to its wastewater treatment plant by 20% to take pressure off the system in an effort to reduce odour levels.

It also ordered Merck to reduce the deadline for completion of other planned measures to address the problem as well as to improve communications with the EPA about any changes or delays to proposed works.

Following complaints by some local residents, the EPA has also asked Merck to examine how it communicates with people affected by the odours who make direct complaints to the company.

Merck said it acknowledges and understands that members of the local community are concerned about the issue. However, the company said it can confirm that the odour is of an organic nature and does not pose a health risk.

The EPA is examining whether Merck has complied with the term of its operating licence and said the issue was “a matter of priority”.

In a statement this evening, Merck said a series of remediation measures have taken place at the Waste Water Treatment Plant over the past number of weeks.

The measures are said to include the installation of a new carbon bed treatment, the sourcing and installation of new higher grade odour treating media and extensive rebalancing of airflows in ducting.

The statement said: "While works to date have contributed to improvements in the system, Merck has also undertaken to reduce the process streams discharging to the Waste Water Treatment Plant, to aid the improvement of the treatment system with a view to reducing the generation of odours within the treatment plant tanks.

"In parallel, further infrastructural measures are also being pursued with urgency."

Merck Millipore manufactures filtration devices and diagnostic membranes for analytical laboratories, biopharmaceutical and microelectronic industries at the Carrigtwohill plant which first opened in 1988.

Its products are used in such items as pregnancy, urine and blood sampling kits.

This story was updated at 6.45pm.

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