A pressure group has called on environment secretary Michael Gove to intervene in a dispute over a large-scale anaerobic digestion (AD) plant.
In a letter to Gove, the Somerset-based Quantock Watch on Anaerobic Digestion (QWAD) group outlined concerns over an AD facility run by Cannington Enterprises at Swang Farm.
QWAD claims the company is breaching EU and UK Government policies on AD. It said the facility was “too big and is too far from major sources of waste”, and the that the “foul stench” from digestate used on land as fertiliser was not acceptable.
The campaigners said the facility did not meet the preferred criteria outlined by Government policy, it being neither a small on-farm operation nor a large-scale industrial operation that takes its feedstock from waste generated by cities.
QWAD also criticised the company for growing crops such as beet to use as feedstock, and that much of the waste is brought in from outside Somerset.
But the demands went beyond complaints about the facility itself. QWAD criticised what it said was “minimal oversight” by authorities, because once disgestate becomes fertiliser under the PAS 110 regime, Environment Agency rules on spreading do not apply.
The letter said: “We are aware the Government has stated that ‘food production must remain the primary goal of agriculture’. And yet there is no public agency with oversight or responsibility that can control this local plant. We would like to ask for your support in persuading the minister and Defra to take action and apply Government policy.”
Cannington Enterprises managing director Tim Roe told MRW the company does not currently use any crop material to produce biomethane.
He said: ”The only crop material that is used in our plant is kept separate [digester, feed tank and gas line], and the resulting gas is used for generating electricity used both on-site and exported to the grid.
”We will no doubt one day put the likes of energy beet into the digesters but, for the time being, we have sufficient food waste available to satisfy the needs of our biomethane plant – which is injecting an average of 9,300kW an hour – enough to supply more than 6,500 houses.
”With regards to the ‘smell’ from the digestate, in 2017, we did not receive any smell complaints during the application of digestate to farm land.”
The company also said PAS 110 was subject to ”a rigourous standard that dictates what can and cannot be done and is subject to an annual independent audit”.
Cannington Enterprises is a family business which was set up in 1914. In addition to its AD facility, it runs a food waste recycling service and has contracts with catering firms.