Neighbours and tourists said the stench took their breath away.
Now a sludge treatment plant near Limavady that treated human waste for spreading on agricultural land has had its licence cancelled.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood said the site at the A37 Broad Road has not been operational since October 13 last year, as sludge is now being taken to Belfast for incineration.
“Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has become aware upon receipt of site operator returns that the company has, on a number of occasions, received and treated more than the permitted 250 tonnes of sludge per day,” he said.
“The agency had previously warned the company about breaching this condition and advised them that further breaches could result in the suspension or revocation of their licence.
“NIEA has decided to revoke the mobile treatment licence for the site. The revocation notice was issued on December 7, 2011 and will come into effect on January 4, 2012.
“After this date there will be no waste licence or site specific working plan for this waste facility and any waste activities undertaken would be considered as illegal and liable to enforcement action.”
Responding to a written Assembly question by Gareth Robinson, Mr Attwood said the operator or another business may want to submit an application to operate a waste facility at the site, in which case NIEA would process the submission taking all documentation and information received into account.
“However, I wish to make it fully clear that I will be robust in ensuring that decisions on licences are proper, taking into account all factors,” he said.
Transport of sewage sludge from Belfast to the site was supposed to be temporary until the Belfast incinerator became operational, but it continued for more than a year.
Limavady councillor Jack Rankin said the smell was becoming a real deterrent for tourists visiting the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a favourite spot for hill walkers.
He said he understands that a planning application has now been entered to reopen the site.
“If you talk to anybody in Limavady they are totally opposed to that site being reopened,” he said. “We’re very worried in case this reopens again.”
Another nearby resident, Danny Holmes, said councillors were almost unanimous in their opposition to the plant. “The stench is just blinding and it smells like rotting carcasses. I’m from a farming background and well used to slurry, but this is many degrees beyond that,” he said.
NI Water said the sludge treatment plant is owned and operated by Digit Site Services Ltd and authorised by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).
“NI Water has no control of its operation, the volume of sludges sent for processing to this plant, nor any responsibility for any odour complaints against the plant,” a spokesperson said.
“The stench is just blinding and it smells like rotting carcasses.
“I’m from a farming background and am well used to slurry, but this is many degrees beyond that.”
Danny Holmes, who lives near the sludge treatment plant