One of the country’s largest medical science and technology firms is under investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency over a series of complaints of odours from its facility in east Cork.
Merck Millipore is facing an inquiry by the environmental watchdog over whether it has complied with the term of its operating licence as a result of “damp mouldy odours” detected coming from its facility in Carrigtwohill, Co Cork on Tuesday.
The EPA said it has been in regular contract with the company since it first became aware of complaints of bad smells at the Tullagreen plant before Christmas.
It said remedial works to address the issue of odour from Merck Millipore’s waste water treatment plant were not functioning as efficiently as they should and required further cleaning to improve their effectiveness.
The EPA said it had carried out an odour impact assessment in the Carrigtwohill area on January 23 ahead of an unannounced site visit when it recorded “a faint, intermittent chemical odour” downwind of the plant.
It noted that the company had determined that deeper cleaning of its odour abatement unit would be required after an initial cleaning operation was carried out in February.
The EPA said no odours were detected downwind of the site when its officials carried out another assessment on March 10.
However, it said the number of complaints received from people in the Carrigtwohill area about odours from the plant increased between March 23 and March 27 when additional cleaning was being carried out.
“The odour abatement unit, which relies on microorganisms to treat the odour from the waste water treatment plant, has struggled to stabilise since the cleaning has taken place, prolonging the occurrence of the odour in the area,” the EPA said.
Following another inspection of the plant on Tuesday, the EPA said microbial conditions in the odour abatement unit appeared to be stabilising which would help alleviate the problem in the short-term.
It added that the company had help from an odour specialist who was advising it on a range of actions to prevent odour nuisance occurring in the future.
As part of its investigation, the EPA has required Merck Millipore to carry out a serious of actions including odour sampling, establishing a public communications programme and carrying out “odour patrols” in the Carrigtwohill area.
The EPA said complaints about odours can be made directly to the company on 021-4883666.
Local Fine Gael councillor, Anthony Barry said he had spoken with management at the Carrigtwohill plant and had been assured that everything possible was being done to control the spread of the odour.
“Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a quick fix,” Mr Barry remarked.
He added: “The smell is of an organic nature and doesn’t pose a health risk other than its unpleasant nature.” Merck Millipore manufactures filtration devices and diagnostic membranes for analytical laboratories, biopharmaceutical and microelectronic industries at the Carrigtwohill plant.
Its products are used in such items as pregnancy, urine and blood sampling kits.