THIS YEAR marks the 65th Anniversary of Birds Eye’s first pea harvest, and the company is celebrating by giving away free pea seeds. We republish this article in the hope that local residents will also be celebrating the ‘moment when the pod went pop’ – by breathing sweet, clean, odourless air. First published in May 2012 on HU12 Online:
YORKSHIRE WATER quite rightly came in for lots of criticism last summer (2011) and became the focus of real local anger because of the smells that came from its Saltend Waste Water Treatment Works.
The deep penetrating odours that ruined summer for residents in South West Holderness, East Hull and Hedon in particular, and made some people feel physically sick, were blamed on the pea harvest.
This year, in anticipation of a bumper pea harvest, we look at what’s involved in the pea harvest and ask – will it smell this year!?
Frozen Peas have been produced in the UK since 1946 by Birds Eye who still dominate the market today. Peas were the first frozen products to be taken to a mass market – Birds Eye famous fish fingers did not make an appearance until 1955.
Birds Eye was owned by Unilever until 2006 who then sold the business to Permira – a London-based private equity firm. They famously closed the Hessle Road Birds Eye factory in 2007 but a year later opened up one of the largest pea processing plants in the world on Brighton Street, Hull.
The £10m facility can process over 60 tonnes of peas every hour. Its peas are harvested from over 24,000 acres of land in East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire. Giant Pea Viner machines take the pods off the vines, remove the peas from the pods and return the waste pods to the field to fertilize the next crop. They are then transported to the Hull factory where they are washed, blanched and frozen. During the pea harvest season from June – August, the factory operates 24-hours a day. It is at this point that the waste water from the washing process containing the pea effluent enters the sewerage system and makes its way to the Waste Water Treatment Works at Saltend.
Last year – according to Yorkshire Water – the exceptionally dry weather meant that the pea-waste effluent was exceptionally concentrated which led to stronger odours and the systems in place at the treatment works simply could not cope.
In 2012 Yorkshire Water claim that they will be prepared for this year’s pea season. They have invested in the £3.5m new Odour Control Unit which has been in operation since December 2011. In addition they will be working in a predictive manner to tackle potential problems before they arise. They will know when the increased levels of pea effluent are likely to hit their systems and can monitor those levels – if it increases to a level likely to cause odours, then the effluent will be re-circulated with liquid to dilute it to manageable levels.
As well as special equipment to monitor odours both Yorkshire Water and East Riding Council officers will be carrying out ‘subjective sniffing tests’ – that’s having a sniff to you and me! And of course a whole army of residents will be on odour alert during the pea season!
So will the new systems work!? We may not have long to wait to find out. Farming UK News reported last year, that Birds Eye began its earliest pea harvest for 30 years on June 8th 2011! And this year is going to be an even bigger harvest as more pea crops have been grown to meet new demand for frozen peas in Italy. So… it’s Wait and See… or is that Wait and Smell!?