OF all the things people want in their neck of the woods, a waste management site is fairly low on the list.

So ever since it was first proposed for Cledford Lane, Middlewich residents have understandably held genuine concerns about the environmental hub for Ansa, Cheshire East Council’s waste management company.

Winsford Guardian:

Action Against Ansa protests in 2015

One of the key worries since ‘odour clouds’ were revealed in the site’s planning application is the potential for smells to drift from the site to nearby homes.

It is a concern that recently became a reality when a mechanical fault, a busy bank holiday in lockdown and warm weather led to a perfect storm that caused a unwelcome whiff across town.

“It doesn’t please us,” said Kevin Melling (pictured below), managing director at Ansa.

“We get quite upset when that happens, and we do our best to try and remedy it.”

Winsford Guardian:

New carbon being lifted into place

The company insists it wants to be ‘good neighbours’ with Middlewich residents, while also making sure the ‘critical’ hub is in full working order.

A key part of this is the air filtration used to prevent smells carrying across town – essentially two pieces of equipment, the first to take out dust particles, and the second to soak up odours using carbon before cleaner air is pumped out.

Odours from the Ansa site were flagged up by residents from Friday, May 29, to Monday, June 1 – when the company reported the problem to the Environment Agency.

Winsford Guardian:

The unit left needing repair

Investigations found that a foreign object – potentially a build-up of dust – was sucked into the air filtration system at the building that deals with residual waste from Cheshire East residents’ black bins.

This caused a blockage that was sucked through and physically damaged the unit, causing a vacuum that placed increased pressure on a seam that split.

What followed was seven weeks of action to remedy the problem and try to prevent it from happening again.

Charlie Griffies, business manager at Ansa, said: “You can drive a car all day long but you can’t guarantee you won’t get a puncture. It’s just part of running the machinery.

“But it won’t happen again in the same way because we have strengthened that up significantly.”

Winsford Guardian:

The restored unit

The unit was strengthened in less than two weeks, with a cradle put in place to help prevent the same structural damage, before ducting was cleaned for a fortnight.

Carbon was then replaced in early July, followed by the filters on July 18.

Ansa says the issue went hand-in-hand with an increase in waste being held at the site thanks to rising demand in lockdown and the bank holiday, which took place a week earlier, as well as warm weather which can exacerbate smells from refuse craters held at the hub.

The company decided to replace the filters prematurely in the wake of the odour issue, it says, to remove the chance of the issue being repeated.

Winsford Guardian:

Filters being changed

It has also taken over responsibility for checking the carbon filtration system is working – an £80,000-plus task – with the intention of monitoring it every three months rather than every 12 as before.

“You will always have some members of the public saying there is a smell,” added Kevin.

“You can have a HGV driving past and if someone is in a flat with the windows open they will say ‘there’s that smell from the site again’.

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“And to be honest with you, you do have a number of smells locally in Middlewich that could either be agricultural or from other manufacturers.

“But I would be lying if I said we don’t generate a smell.”