Last week, Laurence Bourrigaud couldn't leave her house without vomiting.
The stench, she said, from the Bowral Waste Centre, situated just across the train tracks from her house on Railway Parade, made her throw up and sent her blood pressure through the roof.
"When you breathe something really bad for a few days in a row, your body can't take it any more - I couldn't stop vomiting and I was really dizzy," Mrs Bourrigaud said.
"It was a burnt rubber mixed with sewage and some sort of chemical smell, nothing like what we've previously smelt - you'd go out and it knocks you over."
On Friday, November 19, both she and her husband Stephane were admitted to hospital following bouts of nausea and dizziness that they attribute to the waste facility, a problem they have been living with for months.
Now, they are so frustrated that Mr Bourrigaud has launched a petition on change.org demanding the tip be closed down.
"It shouldn't be acceptable to have to evacuate your house every time the smell gets bad," he said.
"It's going to rain all summer.
"I'm upset I can't live in my house anymore."
But Bowral Waste Centre's owner Ernest Dupere has said that the most recent matter is now resolved, after discovering that steps taken to deal with odours in the past were themselves causing further foul smells.
"Until recently, we believed that our actions to properly deal with odour, mainly by following expert advice, being the application of a thick layer of mulch across the landfill southern batter (to act as a bio filter) as well as the installation of a landfill gas extraction system, incorporating a flare, fixed the odour problem, and we spared no expense nor time to implement them," he said in a media release dated November 22, referring to an EPA-ordered change in practices due to complaints in June this year.
"What has since occurred is that the thick layer of mulch is composting after the recent heavy rains, breaking it down, and it then starts to smoulder, which has caused the recent odours."
He said apart from the mulch composting, its presence also hid cracks opening up in the capping due to alternate rain and sun.
The mulch has now been removed, with Mr Dupere saying: "We sincerely apologise for our well-meaning but unsuccessful trial of biofilter mulch which, frankly, brought back odour which was otherwise eliminated."
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), the regulatory body for the facility, said they'd received 20 calls over the last three weeks from nearby residents, and had inspected the centre on November 15, subsequently issuing a 'show cause' notice for an alleged operational issue.
"The landfill operators initiated corrective works to address the recent odours on November 22, and EPA officers inspected the site again on November 23 to observe the progress of these corrective works," an EPA spokesperson said.
"During the inspection on November 23, EPA officers observed that mulch had become saturated during recent rain. This was steaming and composting and likely caused the odour. Bowral Waste Centre commenced removing the wet mulch from the landfill surface on Monday, November 22 and completed the works on November 24.
"The mulch had been brought in as a 'biofilter' to help minimise landfill odours while awaiting delivery components for the landfill gas extraction system.
"No air sampling was conducted.
"The EPA will reinspect the site to determine its effectiveness in eliminating the odours."
But Mr Bourrigaud believes nothing will solve the problem except the complete shutdown of the facility, saying it should never have been approved so close to residential streets.
Wingecarribee Shire Council gave original approval for landfill of the quarry which served Bowral Bricks in 1994, with the DA being modified a number of times since.
The most recent modification was approved on April 14, 2021 for an increase in general (non-putrescible) waste.
"This application was publicly notified, inviting submissions between November 26, 2020 and January 18, 2021," said a council spokesperson.
"Various council staff have taken, and continue to take part in physical patrols (including Environment and Compliance staff).
"Council staff at the nearby sewage treatment plant also monitored for odours.
"Observations are passed onto the EPA."
While the EPA recommends a 250 metre buffer between landfills and residences in their Solid Waste Landfill Guidelines, that only applies when new landfills or houses are being considered.
"The landfill was given development approval by council in 1994, before the current guidelines were in force," an EPA spokesperson said.
Bowral Waste Centre also defended themselves against claims from residents that they are taking incorrect waste.
"It has been suggested that we are/have been taking incorrect waste types," said Mr Dupere.
"This is not correct, since Nov 2019 (when we assumed the business from the previous owners) we have only been taking predominately local wastes and only types as approved by EPA, being demolition and construction wastes and small amounts of local asbestos, as requested by council.
"Anyone who has used our facility knows this, as we reject any load that has food or is odorous, and we don't bury (but export to a composting facility) any green waste that we find when we sort all incoming, non-pre-sorted loads."
But the Bourrigauds, who believe that (in addition to the smell) they have been "breathing asbestos dust for years", are sick of feeling helpless.
"No one wants to take responsibility for this," said Mrs Bourrigard.
"People say it's health before profit, but that's not true," added Mr Bourrigard.
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