THE Environment Agency says it is has not yet determined whether odours produced from a Tiverton factory constitute a breach of its permit, despite an official telling one member of a campaign group that they had "got one in the bag."
Enhanced air quality monitoring has been carried out by the Agency this summer following complaints from a group of residents over odour from Heathcoat Fabrics.
Managers at the factory, which is one of Tiverton's largest employers, say they monitor their own emissions and operate under an environmental permit granted by the Agency, to ensure protection of the environment and human health.
Simon Pont, who lives in St Peter Street, who is separated from the textiles factory by the River Exe, contacted the Environment Agency last week after taking a photograph of smoke coming from the site and complaining of the associated smell.
Within an hour-and-a-half, a trained officer from the agency had visited the scene and confirmed there was an odour as described by the complainant.
Mr Pont said Chris James, pollution prevention and control team leader for Devon and Cornwall, subsequently told him the officer had "got one in the bag" which he took to mean they had substantiated that the permit conditions had been breached.
However, an Environment Agency spokesman claimed there had been a misunderstanding over the use of the phrase. Agency spokesman Mike Dunning said: "By saying we have 'got one in the bag', the officer was saying that we had confirmed we could detect an odour. There was a detectable odour, but we were not saying this was a definite breach of the guidelines."
The Environment Agency said its investigations into the readings will continue and it will now decide whether a breach of permit conditions did occur.
Mr Dunning said it was the prompt response of an Environment Agency officer which enabled them to confirm there had been an odour in the vicinity of Morrisons car park in Kennedy Way and the Exe Valley Leisure Centre.
He said: "Heathcoat's environmental permit requires the company to keep emissions from the site free of odour at levels likely to cause pollution outside the site. We will now decide whether a breach of permit conditions has occurred.
"Our investigations are ongoing into this and other pollution concerns from this site. Enhanced air quality monitoring is being completed by Heathcoat Fabrics alongside our own noise monitoring."
He said residents had recently been invited to meet with officials to discuss the monitoring work in detail, and the Agency was "committed to continue to liaise with the community and operator" to share their findings with them.