Hayes & Harlington MP John McDonnell has called on Hillingdon Council to take action against FM Conway Ltd over its Heathrow Asphalt factory, in Bulls Bridge Road, which produces up to 300,000 tonnes of asphalt per year.
He said residents and businesses in Hayes - and as far away as Ealing - have been complaining of strong tar smells ever since the £10m plant opened in June last year.
Chris Murrell, Southall resident and Water Tower Housing Co-operative maintenance supervisor, said he has had in the region of 10 complaints about the air pollution from neighbours in the 100ft-high tower block in The Straight, Southall.
He said: “It was first brought to my attention about four months ago. Someone asked me if I had noticed the smell of diesel around the building.
“After our tenants complained about the strong smell I instigated an investigation as to the source, after inspection it was found the paper filters on the air inlet duct to the building were heavily contaminated with a sticky residue that smelt like bitumen.
“As it is important to ensure the purity of air circulating around our building and into our tenants’ flats, we instigated a monthly inspection and found this pollution was becoming a real problem.
“One of my responsibilities within the building includes liaising with a mechanical engineering company regarding our air handling unit, they have reported to me that they were having to change the filters more regularly over the last 12-18 months due to heavy soiling.
“We are very concerned about the health of our residents as a number have recently been diagnosed with COPD, this is now so serious that our mechanical engineering company are conducting scientific analysis of the filters.”
Mr Murrell has been woken by the smell in the early morning on a number of occasions, and can identify the tar smell coming through vents in rooms.
He said the block, consisting of 37 properties, has never had this problem before.
He added: “We were driving up the Hayes bypass only last week and if you look at the production plant, tell me if you don’t think it’s oozing tar out of the chimney.”
He also said he has had complaints of a sticky tar residue being found on vehicles parked in their car park.
MP John McDonnell is calling on Hillingdon Council to either “force the company to tackle the emissions problem or, failing that, to shut the operation down until it is safe to reopen” and has said he is extremely fearful for the health and safety of local residents and employees.
He said: “People are saying the acrid smells are so bad it makes them feel headachy and nauseous.”
Hillingdon Council’s environmental health team, which is investigating the situation with Public Health England, has the power to serve enforcement notices on companies and individuals, requiring them to reduce emissions.
In situations where there is evidence emissions are posing a risk of serious pollution, the council can serve suspension notices requiring the immediate end of any activity that produces dust or odour.
Jean Palmer, the council’s deputy chief executive and corporate director of residents’ services, said: “The most effective way of improving the situation for residents and local businesses is to continue working with FM Conway Ltd and holding them to account.
“We have already secured the installation of new equipment at their plant to reduce odours and the building has recently been sealed to prevent odours from escaping.
“Another system to further reduce odour levels will be added to the plant this week, and some further process improvements are scheduled for early June.
“However, if we are not satisfied that this approach is working and resolving the odour problems, we will take appropriate action.”
An Ealing Council spokesman said: “We received complaints about a nuisance caused by a business in Hillingdon and have provided witness statements to our colleagues over there to help with their investigation.”
An FM Conway spokesman said the plant had never failed to meet the required legal standards and that its emissions were continually monitored.
He added: “The manufacture of asphalt involves the use of hot bitumen and can produce an odour which some may find unpleasant.
“This is common to all asphalt plants and it should be noted that there are four such plants within the immediate area of Hayes.
“Some of our close neighbours have contacted us with concerns regarding odour and we are working collaboratively with them to ensure that we mitigate any such nuisance to their satisfaction.”