Call for 'urgent and decisive' government action on Walleys Quarry

Walleys Quarry in Silverdale -Credit:Tristan Potter / SWNS
Walleys Quarry in Silverdale -Credit:Tristan Potter / SWNS

Council leaders want the government to take 'urgent and decisive' action against a landfill site to protect residents' health. Staffordshire County Council is becoming increasingly concerned over the long-term health impact of exposure to the hydrogen sulphide gas coming from Walleys Quarry landfill in Silverdale.

Residents living near Walleys Quarry have for several years been reporting symptoms such as stinging eyes, sore throats and nausea, along with mental health effects including anxiety and depression. The council is now set to reiterate its call for the government to step in and tackle the problem once and for all.

A report to Wednesday's cabinet meeting refers to the latest health risk assessment of air quality monitoring results from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). The UKHSA says that in March, monthly average concentrations of hydrogen sulphide at Galingale View and Silverdale Cemetery were above the long-term health-based guidance value.

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While the current risk is 'likely to be small', the UKSHA warns that the longer the exposure, the greater the potential risk will become. No increases have been detected in mortality rates, hospital admissions or GP consultations for conditions which could be associated with hydrogen sulphide.

Cabinet members will be asked to approve the call for the government to take action to reduce emissions from Walleys Quarry to protect the health and wellbeing of local residents.

Councillor Mike Wilcox, cabinet member for Health and Care, said: "It is appalling that this problem should have persisted for so long. We know that the odour has caused health symptoms for some, while the constant threat of the hydrogen sulphide suddenly descending day or night in their home understandably affects people’s wellbeing.

"The Environment Agency is the main regulator for the site but the size and scale of the problem appears to be beyond it, and this is not something that local councils have the powers or expertise to resolve. We have already asked for a public inquiry into the Environment Agency's handling of this affair, but first and foremost we want communities to have confidence that this will be sorted out."

The latest air quality monitoring data from the Environment Agency, for the week ending May 5, shows that hydrogen sulphide concentrations breached 'annoyance' levels nine per cent of the time at Galingale View, and 2.4 per cent of the time at Silverdale Cemetery.

A spokesperson for Walleys Quarry said: "The landfill site holds an environmental permit and is stringently regulated by the Environment Agency to ensure the onsite activities do not cause harm to human health or the environment.

"We play a vital role in offering residual waste disposal supporting wider recycling services. The team is focused on managing the site to minimise impacts to community around the site and we will continue to do so."

A spokesperson for the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs, said: "We have every sympathy with the local community and remain committed to maintaining long-term improvements in emissions from the site.

"We are doing everything we can to support the Environment Agency to take the appropriate action, challenging the operator every step of the way to act to address the problem."

Separately, Newcastle Borough Council is currently preparing legal action against site operator Walleys Quarry Ltd for alleged breaches of an abatement notice, following a spike in emissions over the winter.