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The buzz won't stop: Leicester Forest East residents fight against flies
For the past five years, year on year, Leicester Forest East has been hit with a swarm of flies. Now, residents have had enough.
Imagine a summer barbecue with your family, food sizzling on the grill. But as you are about to dig in, flies swarm your meal – landing in salads and buzzing around the potatoes. You retreat indoors, unknowingly bringing them along.
This is not an isolated incident. It is a daily struggle every year for residents in Leicester Forest East.
Common house flies are known carriers of diseases such as salmonella, cholera, and gastroenteritis. An infestation can significantly disrupt the daily routines of vulnerable people.
For families with newborn babies who already meticulously maintain a sterile environment to prevent potentially fatal infections, even a single fly landing on a feeding bottle necessitates thorough re-cleaning.
Less physically capable residents who require assistance cannot shoo or swat the flies that incessantly bother them. For those who have undergone recent medical procedures, the anxiety of being relentlessly harassed by swarms of flies and having eggs or larvae deposited in their open wounds is a haunting concern.
In 2018, a concerned resident, Kerry Harrison, created a Facebook group for residents to share information about the flies and their effect on people's daily lives.
Harrison described her move to the area: "When I moved here, I couldn’t believe the amount of flies. There were approximately 50 to 100 in the house at any one time, and that's when I decided to do something about it".
The group started by enquiring about the local food manufacturing company, The Samworth Brothers.
Kerry said: "We asked them if they [Samworth Brothers] were suffering from flies, and they said they were. There is a footpath behind our house which the Samworth Brothers have to maintain. Some of the pipework had been blocked up with fat. So they had that all cleared out and they dug a new trailway. They’ve got so many different procedures in place now".
The group's efforts also included shutting down seven open sewers owned and operated by Severn Trent. But even then, the flies still persisted.
At the time, local residents were concerned that the infestation of the flies could have been related to the Casepak recycling site, close to their homes.
With this in mind, the group approached Blaby District Council for support. Findings from investigations by the council bolstered the resident's hypothesis.
Retrospectively, Blaby District Council said: "Over the last five years, Blaby District Council has carried out extensive investigations into concerns about high numbers of flies in parts of Leicester Forest East. This has included the commissioning of a specialist pest management consultant, and we have required various organisations to undertake work. As a result of those investigations, we do not believe there are any sites within Blaby district which are causing an increase in fly numbers".
However, Casepak resides in Leicester, meaning Blaby District Council has no authority over the recycling centre and could not investigate it directly.
A spokesperson said: "We cannot comment on the Casepak recycling site as it is situated within Leicester, and as a waste business, their pollution controls, including the escape of insects, are regulated by the Environment Agency as their primary enforcing authority. If residents contact Blaby District Council to raise concerns about flies which they believe are originating from Casepak, we are referring them to the Environment Agency as the appropriate regulator of that business".
Leicester City Council declined to comment on the situation. Residents in Leicester Forest East were informed that action would only be taken if the residents of Leicester raised specific complaints about issues in their area.
A consensus was eventually reached involving the council, residents, Casepak, and the local MP, Edward Argar. The outcome of this agreement was commissioning a report by the Environment Agency, which was subsequently published in August of this current year.
The 16-page report exposed a whole host of issues Casepak were having, but also their procedures of testing. The heat from the bales of rubbish could not be tested due to a flat battery, and they had been storing rubbish beyond allowable limits.
A Casepak spokesperson said: "Casepak has always strived to be a responsible operator and a good neighbour. We are aware of wider environmental issues within the Leicester Forest East area, extending to increased fly activity reports from residents.
"To confirm that our operational and environmental management systems are working effectively at our Materials Recycling Facility, we constantly liaise with the Environment Agency and invite them to visit the facility at any time, day and night. These unannounced inspections are currently ongoing this year, with the regulated officers frequently observing that Casepak is demonstrating compliance with our environmental permit and its contained operating conditions.
"In addition to our environmental permit, we are also certified to ISO14001 – Environmental Management System. This is an international standard that is audited every year by an external third party.
"As a responsible operator, we are open to facilitating engagement with local residents to address any concerns that they raise with us or fellow businesses on the Braunstone Frith Industrial Estate and attempt to minimise any impact of our activities to the lowest possible levels".
Mark Cashman, an operations manager at a recycling plant in another local authority, said: "That report from the environment agency... It focuses on a lot of problems that the recycling site has, but it largely focuses on fire prevention. There's no mention of the fly problem. But, of course, there wouldn't be. Because they're looking at fire prevention and not flies."
Despite their best efforts, residents have been unable to completely eradicate the flies, which continue to swarm around their homes and local businesses.