THERE'S a massive stink on.
Did someone yell "cattle-dog"? Nah, different stink.
The most recent stink making a big splash on the Herald's front page was the Hexham stink ('Pipe dream',16/1/21). That stink is driving local residents to despair. And it appears bureaucratic finger pointing will ensure there's no relief on the Hexham horizon. Known to passers-by as the Hexham brown - so as to clearly distinguish it from the Hexham grey which similarly refuses to be eliminated - the stink's "stenchy vapours rise to blot the sun", to quote John Dyer and his 1757 work entitled The Fleece. A Poem. In Four Books.
The Hexham stink caper was soon followed up by a Herald report on Marketown's 110 year-old and 27-metre high stink pipe, ('Stink pipe' 18/1/21). Hunter Water prefers the stink pipe be known as a vent stack, but if it looks and smells like a stink pipe... Whatever you want to call it, it's a bummer if you live nearby.
Avid stink watching enthusiasts - and who isn't? - in the Hunter point to the 2008 Rutherford stink as a worthy contender for "longest" stink. The Herald reported in September of that year ('Company named as source of Rutherford stink', 9/9/08) that "Rutherford residents have complained of bad smells over the area for years, repeatedly demanding action from state politicians."
Local MP Jenny Aitchison's press releases later referred to the "Rutherford Stink" and deemed it worthy of compound noun capitalisation. Radical anti-stink activists forced the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to initiate operation Rutherford Odour Investigation Project. Nice title, but not quite as an inspirational moniker as Queensland's Odour Abatement Taskforce. Waste oil refinery and environmental disaster Truegrain was revealed to be the source.
Then there was the great Mayfield stink of 2016 ('Mystery odours tied to Koppers Australia plant', Herald, 22/4/16), when the plant in Mayfield became the focus of an investigation into a series of strange night-time odours. The malodorous Mayfield mystery was followed by the 2018 stenchy Stockton stink linked to the Cargill Canola refinery at Kooragang Island. The EPA told the Herald ('Kooragang Island Canola plant causes stink among Stockton residents', 3/8/18) in textbook bureaucratese that "odours are generally confined to Kooragang Island".
The Hexham stink is not the first - and it won't be the last
IN OTHER NEWS:
For a non-compliance to be recorded, the EPA needs evidence of the odour being offensive - usually as a result of evidence from residents as to how the odour is impacting their enjoyment of their properties or otherwise affecting their wellbeing in a significant way." Oh, when the west wind blows, you better hold your nose...
Missing from that statement was the usual mandatory banality about the health and well-being of all people being the organisation's top priority. How is the odour impacting the enjoyment of properties? Spare me.
Queenslanders get on the front nostril when it comes to closing-in on stink. The 10 specialist environmental officers in Queensland's Odour Abatement Taskforce have a position description that requires them to possess a capability to sniff out the source of the problem using their "calibrated noses" and a "sniff stick", which is the nasal equivalent of a palate cleanser.
The officer's sense of smell is tested to determine olfactory skills. And here's a scoop. A Taskforce officer said the human nose was the best weapon in identifying problem odours. Genius.
The week before last, some beaches in Nelson Bay were closed for a few days, following a sewage main being damaged during excavation works. Imagine Cruises owner Frank Future said that he had never experienced such a stench in more than 30 years operating in Nelson Bay.
"I was 200 metres away and the smell was overpowering," Mr Future said.
Despite this stink occurring in the busy summer holiday season, there was little interruption to business. This is probably because the bulk of tourists in Port Stephens are from western Sydney and savage stink is part of everyday life.
The Newcastle Citizen of the Year, surgeon Kelvin Kong, not only has outstanding surgical skills, but a sense of humour. We're all now well accustomed to the "truly honoured, humbled and privileged' platitudes from those receiving awards for their day jobs, so the trail-blazing specialist's grab with NBN News last Wednesday was joyously refreshing. And stink - or its past (or is that "passed"?) tense - got a guernsey.
"It's something people forget. Hearing is a human right...I had this one kid after we restored the hearing. And they laughed because... they told me farts make noises. And they'd never realised farts make noises. They thought they just vibrated and stunk."
That was so sincere, I think I shed a tear. Or maybe it just made my eyes water.
- Paul Scott is a regular Newcastle Herald columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org