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Written by on 9 May 2021

The Leader of Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council is seeking urgent action after the partial capping of Walleys Quarry landfill in Silverdale failed to address the issue of foul gassy odours leaking from the site.

The capping of 50 per cent of the site was enforced by the Environment Agency (EA) on the operator, Red Industries Ltd. (now known as Walleys Quarry Ltd.). This followed continuing issues at the landfill site which escalated at the start of the year and breaches of the site permit by the operator.

The measures, however, have failed to ‘stop the stink’ and failed to ease the problems being experienced by local people which dramatically affect their quality of life.

Residents continue to report physical health concerns including sore throat, eye irritation and breathing difficulties and mental health issues including stress and anxiety.

The Leader of the Council, Simon Tagg, said: “Our communities continue to suffer every day and night because of this landfill. Frankly, this is unacceptable and much more must be done – and done with the urgency required to reflect the severity of the situation.

“Residents’ wellbeing, their physical and mental health, must be the priority for everyone concerned here, including the EA and the operator. They need to take further immediate action that shows they are taking the potential health risks and the very real mental health impact on our communities seriously.

“If the capping has not worked – and it certainly doesn’t seem to have any beneficial effect so far – then we need the operator to undertake more works to the site. This would need to involve increased capping and significant improvements to gas management.

“Red Industries have claimed that the odours are coming from contaminated ground water but have provided absolutely no evidence to substantiate their claims. Investigations by other organisations have also found no evidence. We need Red Industries to own this problem and step up their work to resolve it. I am also really dismayed that Red have said that they are taking waste on to the site again from Monday and I’m sure that our communities will not welcome that at all either.”

Complaints about the foul gas odour have been received from residents, businesses, local schools, GP surgeries and the Royal Stoke Hospital (UHNM) and the smell pervades into Stoke-on-Trent and other surrounding areas. More than 15,000 complaints have been received since January, with more than 5,000 in March and 3,421 in April. There have been more than 500 this month, so far.

The Council has previously said that, while it needs to work with the EA to hold the operator to account, it is working independently to gather evidence for a nuisance abatement notice on the site.

The Environment Agency is the regulator for both the landfill site and the environmental permitting regime, which takes precedence over the Council’s statutory nuisance powers. The scale of the problem, however, has led to the Council to undertake the process for this action. This would mean acknowledging that the EA have failed to adequately regulate the site and the operator.

A key part of building the evidence for this option is residents’ testimonies of the impact on their quality of life. The Council’s environmental health teams have been working very closely with residents to monitor the levels of odour both in the air and within people’s own homes.

More than 20 households have agreed to keep diaries of odour issues and have allowed officers to visit them, at any time of the day and night, to witness and assess the odours and the impact the situation is having on them. The evidence has been captured in ‘real time’.

The Leader of the Council added: “Our environmental teams have been working through the night in recent weeks to respond to calls and visit homes while the odour is affecting families. The smell is even worse at night and insomnia and lack of sleep make everything else worse for everyone.

“I commend our officers’ dedication to supporting our residents, they are working tirelessly. And, I thank the residents who have allowed such intense access to their homes – often late at night. This is helping the Council to gather the required evidence for a nuisance abatement notice against the landfill operator.”

“We had hoped that Red Industries and the EA would have had residents’ health and quality of life as their priority all along. But I agree with residents that they are going too slow and being too ineffective in their actions. They have to stop, once and for all, the very real problems that communities are facing because of the vile stink.”