‘Cat urine’ odour traced to factory near houses

FM Automotive Coatings, Boldon Business Park
FM Automotive Coatings, Boldon Business Park

A pungent odour, which has been compared to “cat’s urine”, has had residents in a village holding their noses.

A probe to trace the root cause of the smell has been carried out over several months by council environmental health officers after complaints were received from people living in the Harden Park and Leander Drive area, of Boldon Colliery.

Investigations traced the smell to FM Coatings on the Boldon Industrial Estate and a number of measures have been undertaken on site in a bid to obliterate the odour – including cleaning of the effluent treatment facility, introduction of an hourly maintenance routine and an increase in waste skip collection.

Despite all the efforts, a definitive cause of the smell has yet to be fully established.

But members of Jarrow and Boldon Community Forum will be told next week that odours are now occurring on a “less frequent basis”.

A report from David Cramond, the council’s corporate director of economic regeneration, said: “In February this year, the number of complaints increased in stark contrast to the previous levels of complaints and the description of the odour included references to both solvent odours and a ‘cat’s urine’-type smell.

“Following extensive investigations both prior to, and following, receipt of a petition, officers concluded the a source could firmly be attributed to FM Coatings Ltd.

“A number of interventions have been carried out in an attempt to deal with the odours, even though the precise cause was unknown,

“Our current assessment of ongoing odours is that they appear to be occurring on a less frequent basis. The council will keep residents informed, as new information is available to share. Officers will continue to regulate operations at this site in compliance with legislation.”

Coun Joanne Bell, Labour councillor for Boldon Colliery, said: “As a borough we’ve had these issues with odours before at Rohm Haas in Jarrow and Baker Perkins in Hebburn, for example.

“We also had a similar problem at North Road, at the other end of the industrial estate, about eight years ago. Residents say this current smell is pungent and obnoxious, but despite all the investigations it appears we still really haven’t got to the bottom of it, although we’ll keep monitoring it.”

The company says the smell has not yet been definitively attributed to its operation, with several other paint plants in close proximity.

Michael McNicholas, company director with FM Coatings, said: “We will continue to monitor the situation and work with South Tyneside Council.”

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Environmental health officers have put a significant amount of time into researching and investigating the potential cause of the ‘cat’s urine’ odour.

A detailed inspection of the FM Coatings site and working areas in March concluded that all parts of the processes were operating correctly, emission controls were appropriate and, significantly, there were no significant odours either inside the paint shop or outside in the immediate locality.

Solvent storage areas, paint rooms and the effluent treatment plant were all checked.

Officers have approached other local authorities, Public Health England and the Environment Agency, and requested the company appoint specialist environmental consultants in an attempt to address the issue.

Although the precise cause was not known, interventions have included:

•Provision of carbon filters on the paint gun cleaner and paint kitchen extraction;

•Cleaning of all drains on site on a six monthly basis;

•Renewal of paint nozzles;

•Replacement of plastic anti-mist eliminators to stainless steel;

•Installation of timer on paint gun clean to restrict operation times.

FM Coatings operate painting processes associated primarily with the motor industry. The site is subject to regulation by the local authority under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010, which require it to have an environmental permit. Jarrow and Boldon CAF is to meet at Boldon Community Association on Thursday from 5pm.