‘Pungent’ fumes in Hackney Wick spark investigation

The site on Wallis Road. Photograph: @CleanAirForHWickKids

An investigation has been launched after reports of “very pungent” smells being emitted from a construction site in Hackney Wick.

Lisa Huxley-Blithe, from Clean Air for Kids Hackney Wick, told the Citizen that chemical odours were wafting down the streets from a building site on Wallis Road.

“You can smell it everywhere,” she said.

Work on the site, which was authorised by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), has been paused.

Hackney Council met with LLDC and Tower Hamlets Council yesterday to begin an investigation into the incident.

Although the site is outside of Hackney Council’s remit, a spokesperson said construction will not resume “until a comprehensive plan to monitor and mitigate the emissions in the air is in place” and “air quality testing, specifically focusing on ground gases and particular contaminants at the site, is being carried out”.

Similar issues were reported near the site in 2018, when naphthalene and benzene, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer classify as carcinogenic to humans, were found.

That incident left children complaining of headaches and sickness.

An LLDC spokesperson said is it not known what the fumes are in the latest case, but that “tests so far have not revealed any hazardous materials” and, at this stage, they “do not seem to be the same as in 2018”.

“This is an area with a decades-long history of industrial use resulting in heavy ground contamination,” they continued.

“As a result, there are strict procedures to manage construction work. Developers are required to undertake preliminary works to check ground conditions, but some problems may only become apparent when full construction is underway.”

Huxley-Blithe said residents are frustrated by a lack of communication from developer Ardmore Construction, and that there is no phone number advertised at the site for people to report concerns.

“The local community is shut out of the whole process,” she said.

The LLDC spokesperson added: “We have also asked the developer to ensure that they keep local residents, schools and businesses informed about the works on the site, the testing regime being undertaken and future planned mitigation.”

They said that Notting Hill Genesis and Ardmore have agreed to put in place improved communication and engagement measures.