Representatives of Walfertan Processors, the wet-blue tannery 250 km North West of Sydney, faced an extraordinary council meeting (June 15) to respond to pollution reduction notices placed on the company by the NSW Department of Environment and Conservation in August last year. The company owned by AI Topper & Co which processes hides, goat and sheepskins to wet-blue, had been called on to implement five new pollution reduction programmes a year ago amidst concerns that strong odours from the plant impacted on the local community.

The company advised that they had completed assessments of the odour and effluent management system deficiencies and would move to the capital construction phase with the majority of the necessary works to be completed by June 2006 with further assessments to demonstrate compliance by June 2007. The details of the capital works, including the methodology to replace the current unsustainable effluent management systems, however, were not provided to the meeting attended by members of the public.

Mayor for the Upper Hunter Shire Council, Cllr Barry Rose said, after the meeting, that Council was disappointed that the company was not prepared sufficiently to answer many of the questions raised regarding operating practices. ‘They addressed council without details of how they intend to fix their problems, only a timetable of up to two years to satisfy their licence conditions’, he said.

A New South Wales Department of Health spokesman said there were no health concerns relative to the odours emanating from the site but that there was a potential pathogen hazard from foam originating from wastewater treatment that the company needed to control. The community remained concerned that thirty years of odour complaints had not resolved the problem, the council said.

The Mayor added: ‘The company must comply with its new licence conditions and Pollution Reduction Notices within a timeframe (albeit two years are too long). The long standing offensive odours must be eliminated and effluent treatment must be environmentally sustainable.’

AI Topper claim that the tannery uses best available technology and that its processes are designed to minimise impact on the local environment.