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April 21, 2008

'Foul smell' from EU manure wafts over England

A foul smell permeating London and parts of England over the past two days is due to farmers on the European continent spreading manure in their fields, forecasters and British farmers said Saturday.

The agricultural odor is inescapable in central London and smells vaguely of farmland or even garbage.

Forecasters said a stiff breeze from the east is carrying the smell across the North Sea from Belgium, the Netherlands and even Germany. They said the smell was likely to hang around through the past weekend as the easterly wind continues.

"You can't say it's going to smell for two days, but the wind is coming in from the same direction," said Chris Almond, a forecaster with the Met Office, Britain's weather service. "It's not really until Monday, Tuesday that we'll see a change in the wind direction, with a more marked improvement in air quality." He said the smell had probably been stagnating in those countries for a few days, resulting in a more pungent aroma once the winds brought it to England.

The National Farmers' Union blamed the smell on the muck-spreading by Dutch farmers, who it said are banned from the practice in the winter and are now spreading it "en masse."

Although the smell may be unusual, the phenomenon of European air spilling its contents over England is not, forecasters have said. "We quite often get pollution in the form of haze coming over when we've got these winds from an easterly direction, particularly when the winds are coming off the near-continent," he said.

Almond said the smell is in much of central and eastern England, and has reached as far west as Devon, on the southwestern tip of England, where his office is located. London newspapers reported the smell on their front pages on the afternoon of April 18, with one paper branding it "Le Stink."

The farmers' union used the odor to make its case against a similar winter ban proposed on muck-spreading in Britain. "This is what happens when farmers are forced to empty their slurry store all in one go at the same time instead of being able to apply it little and often during the winter," spokesman Anthony Gibson said.

"While we are obviously very sorry for any unpleasantness caused to people living in the South East, we are grateful to the Dutch farmers for laying on such a pungent demonstration of what could happen every spring here in the UK if the government presses ahead with its ill-conceived proposal to implement a blanket ban on winter slurry spreading across most or all of the country."

CNN

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