Labour criticises Environment Agency over Walleys Quarry odour


Steve Reed

The Shadow Environment Secretary Labour MP Steve Reed has criticised the Environment Agency and the Conservative Government for a “lack of action” over Walleys Quarry landfill site.

Walleys Quarry in Newcastle-under-Lyme has been subject to numerous complaints over foul-smelling odours. Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council said there have been 500 complaints in February so far. Local residents have also held protests at the landfill site over the issue.

Reed said he has written to the government “demanding urgent answers” as to why they have “done nothing” to address the fumes being released from Walleys Quarry.

He wrote: “Residents are rightfully furious about the disgraceful levels of hydrogen sulphide emitting from the site. They are angry at a lack of action from the Conservative Government that has been in power for 14 years, the Environment Agency and their local Conservative MP.

“No effective enforcement action has been taken against the site’s operators despite more than 90 breaches of their permit. Astonishingly, monitors that should have triggered action when the level of emissions exceeded permitted levels were not even plugged in after installation.”

Residents are rightfully furious about the disgraceful levels of hydrogen sulphide emitting from the site.

In the letter, Reed said the situation is “disgusting and intolerable” and the smell coming from Walleys Quarry made him feel nauseous when he visited the local area.

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency told Circular Online: “We recognise that there have been recent temporary increases in hydrogen sulphide emissions around Walleys Quarry and in odour reports from local residents. We have every sympathy with the local community and remain committed to maintaining long-term improvements in emissions from the site.

“We continue to require Walleys Quarry Ltd to comply with its environmental permit and implement all the measures necessary to manage emissions of landfill gas from the site. We are keeping Walleys Quarry Ltd’s response and our regulatory options under review.”

Last week, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council voted to urge the Environment Agency to close Walleys Quarry.

During the special meeting of the Full Council called to discuss the continuing issues with Walleys Quarry, councillors were told that complaints about foul odours caused by emissions of hydrogen sulphide had risen steadily in the last three months.

Simon Tagg, Leader of Newcastle-under-Borough Council, said: “The EA (Environment Agency) is the principal regulatory body for Walleys Quarry with the power to suspend operations, restrict what’s done, or require work be carried out and it should consider using its ‘Closure Notice’ powers.

Walleys Quarry
Walleys Quarry in Newcastle-under-Lyme been subject to numerous complaints from local residents.

“Months, indeed years, of EA site inspections have brought to us to where we are now and Full Council has now backed Cabinet’s decision to call on the EA to issue a closure notice for this site and the ball is very much in its court: our community wants to know what we’re waiting for.”

Describing the odours as a “significant public health emergency”, councillors also voted for the council to assess its legal options and backed a move to increase the authority’s legal “fighting fund” to £300,000.

Read also wrote in his letter that: “It is unacceptable that the Conservative Government and Environment Agency has failed to adequately, regularly and proactively regulate the site, or to account for this ongoing failure.

“Please let me know whether you have yet met with the Environment Agency to ask why they have so badly let down the people of Newcastle-under-Lyme. Do you believe they have the powers necessary to take enforcement against the operators, and if not, what are your plans to address it?”

The Environment Agency regulates the operation of Walleys Quarry Landfill under the environmental permit held by the site. There are no permit conditions which set maximum emission limits for hydrogen sulphide. The permit also does not require the elimination of all odour outside the site boundary.

In order to issue a Closure Notice, the Environment Agency said it must be satisfied there is a risk of “serious long-term pollution or persistent non-compliance with permit conditions” that suggests that an operator is not competent to manage the activity.

The regulator said it would only issue a Closure Notice as a “last resort” after having exhausted all other enforcement options.

The Environment Agency said an early closure of Walleys Quarry would be “particularly complicated” as the landfill remains partially filled and has not reached the final levels favourable for restoration, nor those required by the planning permission.

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