'We live in the UK's smelliest town - even our homes smell like rotten eggs'

Simmo Burgess in front of a lorry
-Credit: (Image: SWNS)

Residents of what's been dubbed the UK's stinkiest town claim they feel as though they're being 'gassed', despite a halt in waste deliveries to a nearby landfill site. The locals report that the odour emanating from the waste site is reminiscent of 'bad eggs', causing illness and significantly impacting their quality of life.

Walley's Quarry, situated on the outskirts of Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs., was so smelly that waste deliveries were suspended in April. Despite this, over 1,000 complaints about the smell infiltrating homes are lodged each month. Exasperated residents are now calling for the Environment Agency to investigate the odours, which are caused by the release of hydrogen sulfide gas.

Audrey Young, a 48 year old mum-of-two who lives a mile away from the site, said: "If you look at the bigger picture, there's nearly a complaint per average household. It's like you're being gassed in your own home. It causes a lot health implications." Audrey also pointed out that the town has the 'highest rate' of breathing difficulties in the country, as well as the highest number of COPD and lung cancer rates.

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She shared her personal experience, saying, "I lost my mum to COPD and it's not that common. It's like you know everyone you know has it. A lot of counties have it and we're the worst." She further explained, "The rubbish comes from places as far away as Scotland. They pass 51 landfills to get here. Some companies send at least 10 loads a day. There's medical waste and animal waste from abattoirs."

Audrey shared that during the pandemic, she was working in care and could constantly smell the landfill. "My daughter gets nose bleeds. We get a lot of younger children getting bleeds," she shared, explaining that most households have had to buy expensive air purifiers in an attempt to block out the smell.

Explaining the extent to which the smell is impacting her family's life, Audrey said: "We're having to keep our plugs in the bath sink and keep the toilet seat down. We can't go into our gardens in the summer. As well as that, we can't invite people to our homes. We get embarrassed. It's mortifying."

Residents are currently waiting on the outcome of two investigations into the landfill, and in the meantime a protest group called Stop the Stink was launched to pressure authorities to take action, but has so far not attained victory. Simmo Burgess, aged 45 and residing in nearby Knutton, joined the campaign group back in 2019.

The father-of-three revealed: "We've been fighting the battle for clean air for five years. The gases from the landfill site have been proven to be consistently above WHO guidelines. We have met with numerous Government ministers to no avail. The whole community suffers almost daily breathing in toxic fumes."

Simmo shared that reports being made to the Environment Agency and local council have dropped due to 'report fatigue'. He said: "No one is listening to the complaints. All promises and no action. The gases seep into our homes, with windows and doors shut."

He described the smells as similar to 'eggs, sulphur and rotting flesh', and said that the offensive odor "causes nausea and headaches" and endangers the vulnerable. Simmo continued: "Just driving and walking around the area, you can hit a 'pocket' if gas which can take your breath away and make your eyes stream. Unless you leave the area there is no escape."

He also expressed frustration at the fact landfill was being transported to the site from 'miles away'. He said: "We have evidence they have buried hazardous waste destined for disposal in Europe to save themselves the export costs. The site should be managed by a legitimate company who will manage the gases properly."

Simmo continued: "The owners should be prosecuted for their actions, not for the first time, and laws made to make sure this never happens again anywhere. The full extent of this environmental disaster will come to light in years to come."

The Environment Agency halted deliveries to the site in March, in light of over 4000 odour complaints that had been received in just the month of February alone. Newcastle Under Lyme Borough Council have requested permission from the Government to take legal action against the quarry site, however the process has been delayed by the upcoming general election in May.

Council leader Simon Tagg has stated that he believes the site is not being operated in a manner that sufficiently addresses the odour problems, which he claims have always been present. The quarry operator, Walleys Quarry Ltd., has responded by saying that the site is "stringently regulated by the Environment Agency to ensure the onsite activities do not cause harm to human health or the environment". They further stated that the site "continually inspected the waste deliveries and activities on the landfill to ensure that odour risks are managed, minimised and eradicated."

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