That was the stark admission from bosses of a controversial waste plant, at a heated public meeting, after furious residents demanded answers over an ongoing odour problem.
The £320m Farington Waste Technology Plant has been plagued by controversy over bad smells pouring from the premises since early January.
At a meeting on Monday, site bosses said there had been a 90 per cent reduction in odour, but had been forced to put in place a contingency plan that would involve shutting down household waste admissions to the plant if the problem was to happen again.
Addressing the meeting, CEO of Global Renewables Lancashire, David Brewer, said: “I think it is clear we still haven’t got the problem fixed, but we have done further work which has made a significant improvement.”
Mr Brewer said his team had discovered a build up of ‘gunk’ in the chemical scrubbers that work with plant’s bio-filters in organically breaking down smells, which are then released into the air.
As material in the scrubbers has built up, this has reduced the air flow coming through the compost, and led to the smell.
He said: “We knew last time there was a problem with the bio-filters, and this has been an incredibly complex time for us to get to the root of the problem.
“We now believe the situation is under control, and we don’t think we will have a further performance problem.
“We will still have a small, localised problem with odour, but one which is not spread across the whole neighbourhood in the way it was earlier on.
“If odour levels start to get above the levels they are designed to operate at, then there is an enhanced monitoring programme that kicks in.
“If it got to a level where there were significant odour problems, that would trigger an automatic closure of the plant.
“We would remain closed and cease operation until we were confident the bio-filters were working properly.”
Currently, the plant accepts 200 tonnes of waste a day from locations across Lancashire, a third of what it could take,
Resident Tim Carter, who lives on nearby Bispham Avenue, said at the meeting: “It seems amazing that these scrubbers were not monitored and checked. They are in a disgusting condition.
“We were assured all along this was not an experimental process. You don’t really know what you are doing. You are playing with people’s lives here, and our quality of life has suffered abysmally.”
Mr Brewer replied: “I recognise this has had a huge impact, and I can’t make that go away, but we have controls in place to stop this recurring.”
Residents heard measuring of the odours would be done by accredited labs who take samples of the air, and then a panel of people who smell the air and give it a rating.
A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “We don’t think they have completely resolved it, but we think they are nearly there.
“We are requiring the company to put in place measures so it doesn’t happen again, and we are monitoring the odours to make sure the company operates within the design standards.
“We are still investigating why this happened, and what mistakes were made by the company.”
Asked whether the company would face significant fines as a result of the problem, the spokesman said: “We do feel there have been breaches of the permit at this stage. We are investigating and my instinct is that this will result in action that could result in prosecution.”