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The pungent smell which has wafted over Westhoughton since last Thursday has caused much uproar in the town.

More than 850 people have signed a petition calling for tighter controls on the spreading of sewerage sludge on farmland when it is near to residential areas.

Others have said residents should get over it and accept that farms should be able to produce these smells.

But here’s an explanation as to why Westhoughton can celebrate its farmers AND still have a relatively smell-free town.

Treating the sludge

Treatment removes much of the smell from sewage sludge. According to Government guidelines, untreated sludge must be incorporated or injected into the soil as quickly as possible, especially if the site is close to a populated area.

The sludge must be sprayed as close as possible to the ground to avoid fine spray being carried away on the air. If this isn’t possible, the farmer must inform local environmental health officers and take the protective measures they advise.

The sludge must not cause public nuisance from smells.

What is sewage sludge anyway?

Sewage sludge is the solid matter that’s left when sewage is treated by the water industry. It’s mainly human waste but also includes drainage from industries, animal and vegetable processing, and storm water run-off.

Some contents of sewage sludge are good for soil and plants. Others are potentially toxic elements (PTE) which are safe only if they’re below set limits.

When can sludge not be used?

You must not use sewage sludge on farmland when it can cause a nuisance to nearby homes, industry or traffic. It must not be spread as untreated, dewatered sludge on grassland.

More information

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