Smelly landfill site odour 'harmful to health' as residents told to keep their windows shut

MP Stephen Crabb described it as a 'disgrace' -Credit:WalesOnline/ Rob Browne
MP Stephen Crabb described it as a 'disgrace' -Credit:WalesOnline/ Rob Browne

An MP has shared a Public Health Wales warning reiterating to residents living near a smelly landfill site that odours could be "harmful to health". People living in Spittal near Haverfordwest have complained for months about the nasty smell coming from Withyhedge Landfill and Materials Recycling Facility.

On Friday local MP Stephen Crabb shared a Public Health Wales notice on social media which advised locals that the smells coming from the site may be "harmful". It suggested locals should keep their windows closed and urged anyone experiencing symptoms to seek medical attention.

Mr Crabb slammed the advice as coming "months late" and described it as a "disgrace". He said the community has long worried about the effects of breathing in the egg-smelling air and said the Welsh Government should be held accountable. For the latest Welsh news delivered to your inbox sign up to our newsletter

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However, in a combined statement from Public Health Wales and Natural Resources Wales, a spokesman said the advice was included in Natural Resources Wales’ weekly update on Withyhedge Landfill on Friday, and was initially provided in March.

The spokesman said it refers to the "possibility" of physical and mental health harms. Meanwhile a spokesman for the company that operates the site said it is understood that gas produced by the site is not hazardous or detrimental to human health in the concentrations experienced.

The notice reads: "Public Health Wales has advised that odours and emissions from this site may be harmful to health. They suggest keeping doors and windows closed when the smells are present. If you are experiencing health or wellbeing symptoms due to odour emissions from Withyhedge Landfill, please seek medical advice - arrange an appointment with your local GP or call 111."

Sharing the leaflet on social media Mr Crabb said "there are just no words". He wrote: "For months the community have suffered because of Withyhedge Landfill and been ignored by the Welsh Labour Government and their regulators.

"Public Health Wales are months late with this information released today. It’s a disgrace but I think the community always knew the smell was toxic which is why their fight has been unstoppable. Paul Davies MS and I have been doing all we can to keep the pressure on Welsh Government who have been reluctant to do anything.

"Welsh Government and First Minister Vaughan Gething should be held accountable and we need transparency over his dealings with the site owner immediately."

A second politician, Member of the Senedd for Preseli Pembrokeshire - and former leader of the Welsh Conservatives - Paul Davies, also shared the notice on Monday.

He described the notice as "outrageous" to his followers on X, formally known as Twitter. He wrote: "This is outrageous. People living near Withyhedge have been affected by the stench coming from it for months & Public Health Wales are now saying that it could be harmful to health. This whole saga needs addressing now - the community needs support & the operator needs to go."

Public Health Wales is the advisory body in this matter and does not have regulatory powers to take action. Natural Resources Wales is the regulator.

A combined statement for Public Health Wales and Natural Resources Wales said: "This advice from Public Health Wales was included in Natural Resources Wales’ weekly update on the Withyhedge Landfill issues on Friday, May 10. It is the same advice that was initially provided in March and refers to the possibility of physical and mental health harms. Public Health Wales continues to work with partners to obtain monitoring data to inform a full health risk assessment."

The site is operated by Resources Management Ltd (RML), which has a permit allowing it to dump 250,000 tonnes of waste at the site each year. The firm is part of Dauson Environmental Group, which also owns Cardiff-based Atlantic Recycling, a company that transports waste across south Wales to the Withyhedge site.

On Thursday Pembrokeshire council confirmed it had written to RML warning it is "not prepared to let this nuisance continue at the expense of the public" and notifying of its intent to seek an injunction if gases continue to escape from the landfill.

In March 2022, ownership of RML passed to Dauson Environmental Group. Dauson is run by Cardiff businessman David Neal and the company gave a total of £200,000 to Vaughan Gething's Welsh Labour leadership campaign in a controversial move which has come under significant criticism. In a statement to WalesOnline, Mr Neal previously said "all efforts are underway" to resolve the issues at Withyhedge and apologised to neighbours and communities in the area.

An RML spokesman said: "RML has spent the past six months working with Natural Resources Wales to rectify the issues at Withyhedge Landfill site and has been fully committed to bringing a conclusion to the works. The issues surrounding Withyhedge have been both complex and challenging, but RML is pleased to report that planned works are proceeding in alignment with the deadlines of the current notice.

"RML has been working closely with NRW, Pembrokeshire Council and Public Health Wales to monitor air quality of all surrounding areas of the site. While RML appreciates that the gas that has on occasions been released from the site during the engineering works has been unpleasant, it is our understanding that this is not hazardous or detrimental to human health in the concentrations being experienced."

Welsh Government declined to comment, saying it is a matter for Public Health Wales and Natural Resources Wales.