Noise pollution, odour and other nuisances

Odour, dust and smoke nuisances


Odour, dust or smoke from your business activities could be considered a nuisance. If you fail to deal with a nuisance problem you could face legal action and a fine. Your local council could restrict or stop your business activities. You should find ways to limit the amount of odour, dust and smoke you create to avoid causing a nuisance.

Permit and exemption conditions for smoke, dust or odour

If you have a pollution prevention and control permit, waste management licence or a waste exemption, it may have conditions that control emissions, such as smoke, dust or odour. You must comply with all of the conditions in your permit, licence or exemption. If you don't comply, your regulator (the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) or your local council) can take enforcement action against you, such as issuing you with an enforcement notice or a suspension notice for breach of a condition - see environmental permits and licences - an overview.

How to avoid odour nuisances

Certain odours can be considered a nuisance. To determine whether an odour is a statutory nuisance, or whether it is in breach of permit or licence conditions or your registered waste exemption, a council environmental health officer or NIEA officer will assess:

  • its intensity
  • its character - easily recognised odours are often a greater nuisance
  • its source and the prevailing weather conditions, such as wind direction and speed
  • the time and duration of its release
  • the intensity of its effect - how annoying, intrusive or offensive it is
  • whether the odour would be expected in that location
  • what measures are required to stop the cause of the nuisance

Assess whether odours are likely to be emitted from your site and the most likely sources, and put appropriate control measures in place. Make this a part of your routine site inspections.

Control or stop the odour at its source. You should be able to demonstrate that you follow good practice in your operations and that you have used the most effective means to prevent an odour nuisance.

How to avoid dust and smoke nuisances

Do not use bonfires to burn waste - you could be committing an offence. Instead find ways to reuse, recover, recycle or correctly dispose of your waste.

If you must burn waste, follow legal requirements to avoid committing an offence - see burning waste.

Keep equipment that reduces dust and smoke emissions, such as filters and cyclones, in good working order. Make sure that where dust is collected it is emptied on a frequent basis and disposed of correctly.

Make sure boilers, especially oil or solid fuel units, are operating efficiently and do not emit excessive smoke - see preventing air pollution.

You can plant shrubs and trees in belts around the edge of your premises to help screen out dust and smoke pollution, but this should not be used in place of suitable process control or specialised equipment.