Who is responsible for what?
The Environment Agency regulates the two environmental permits held by Walleys Quarry (formerly known as Red Industries RM Limited) for the landfill. The permit covers onsite activities with the aim of minimising the impact on the local environment in terms of air quality, noise, odour, dust, leachate and impacts to groundwater. That permit is enforced through monitoring and undertaking site visits, announced and unannounced, and where needed we take enforcement action to address compliance issues.
Staffordshire County Council is responsible for determining and monitoring planning permission. It is also responsible for improving the health of the county’s population.
Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council is responsible for monitoring air quality across the area, including the assessment of statutory nuisance.
Public Health England (PHE) exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities. PHE are an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care and a distinct delivery organisation with operational autonomy. We provide government, local government, the NHS, Parliament, industry and the public with evidence-based professional, scientific and delivery expertise and support.
Website: www.gov.uk/phe Facebook: www.facebook.com/PublicHealthEngland Follow on Twitter @PHE_UK @PHE_WestMids
Frequently asked questions and answers provided by the Environment Agency
Why is the site not being shut down?
The Environment Agency understands that many residents would like Walleys Quarry landfill to be closed. At this current time, the engineering and design of the landfill means it is not in a suitable position to close the site permanently, there is waste and odour from the existing waste that needs to be actively managed. The EA is working with the operator to bring the site back into compliance with its environmental permit, in line with published guidance, relevant legislation and the regulator’s code of conduct.
An enforcement notice has been served, requiring the operator to take appropriate action to minimise odour including installation of permanent and temporary capping. This position will be continuously reviewed, depending on the response from Walleys Quarry in accordance with published enforcement guidance.
More information on the EA enforcement and sanctions policy can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/environment-agency-enforcement-and-sanctions-policy/environment-agency-enforcement-and-sanctions-policy
Have your actions for Walleys Quarry been the same as your actions for Clayton Hall Landfill site?
The Environment Agency’s approach to regulating Walleys Quarry Landfill is consistent with the approach our colleagues have taken when regulating the Clayton Hall Landfill site in Lancashire.
What is causing the smell?
Landfill gases are formed when biodegradable waste (such as food scraps, paper, and wood) rot and decompose (breakdown by bacteria) or evaporate. Emissions are a mixture of mostly methane and carbon dioxide, with very small quantities of other gases.
What is landfill gas?
Landfill gas is formed in a landfill when biodegradable waste (such as food scraps, paper, and wood) rot and decompose (breakdown by bacteria) or evaporate. The gas is a mixture of mostly methane and carbon dioxide. It also contains a number of other gases in very small quantities. The gas, if not properly contained within the engineered landfill, can seep out into the air and lead to unpleasant smells. The different gases that can make-up landfill gas vary depending upon the type of waste on a landfill site and how far the waste has broken down.
What can I smell in the landfill gas from Walley’s Quarry Landfill?
Landfill gas is mostly methane and carbon dioxide, which are odourless and colourless. However, the gas also contains hydrogen sulphide that, even in small quantities, has a strong smell of rotten eggs. This is what residents can smell.
Although the hydrogen sulphide smell can be strong and unpleasant, it does not automatically mean that it is harmful. Our sense of smell is very sensitive and is often stimulated at very low levels which Public Health England would not expect to be harmful.
Why is the smell so bad?
The human nose is very sensitive to smell and there are many things that have a very strong smell, even at levels significantly lower than those which would be harmful to human health.
However strong smells are unpleasant and can impact on wellbeing leading to stress and anxiety. Some people may also experience symptoms, such as nausea, headaches, or dizziness, as a reaction to strong smells, even when the substances that cause those smells are themselves not harmful to health. Some residents’ symptoms may be as a result of their reaction to particular smells.
Hydrogen sulphide can be smelt at much lower concentrations than the levels that cause harm.
We know that there was a high peak in the recorded levels of hydrogen sulphide on the 7th and 8th March, where one of the monitoring stations off Galingale View registered data for concentrations of hydrogen sulphide above the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 24-hour health-based guideline value of 150 µg/m3.
What pollutants is the Environment Agency monitoring the air for?
The Environment Agency is monitoring for a range of substances and once further monitoring data has been received, Public Health England will continue to review the data against relevant UK or World Health Organization (WHO) health-based standards and guidelines.
What are the pollutants?
Hydrogen sulphide is a trace gas commonly found in landfill gas which causes the rotten egg smell. The Environment Agency is monitoring a range of substances and once further monitoring data has been received, PHE will review data against relevant health-based standards and guidelines.
What are the Environment Agency going to do about the odour?
Communities continue to be impacted by odour and the Environment Agency remains committed to regulating Walleys Quarry Landfill. The Environment Agency’s primary focus continues to be doing everything within its power to bring the landfill’s operation into compliance with its permit as quickly as possible.
The Environment Agency recognise that many want to see faster action, this is understandable, and the operator has been set a challenging timetable to undertake the necessary work properly.
Why are the Environment Agency (EA) monitoring hydrogen sulphide and not sulphur dioxide?
Landfill gas is the main emission to air from landfill sites. It is produced by biodegradable waste in the landfill as it breaks down. Landfill gas composition varies. It contains mostly methane (around 60% to 65% by volume) and carbon dioxide (around 35% to 40% by volume), but also a number of other 'trace' gases present in very small quantities (around 1% in total).
These trace gases can be extremely odorous and can be detected by the human nose at extremely low concentrations. One of these trace gases is hydrogen sulphide which has a smell like rotten eggs. Hydrogen sulphide is relatively straightforward to monitor and is sometimes used as a ‘surrogate’ for the other gases. Hydrogen sulphide can be smelt at much lower concentrations than the concentration that can typically cause harm. This means that whilst it is possible to sometimes smell hydrogen sulphide in the air around landfill sites, it is heavily diluted with fresh air.
We made a decision to begin monitoring for sulphur dioxide at three of our Mobile Monitoring Facilities (MMF’s). Sulphur dioxide is naturally present in the atmosphere due to volcanoes and man-made sources include burning fossil fuels such as coal. We have undertaken this additional monitoring as we were aware of high levels of hydrogen sulphide in the landfill gas collection pipework being sent to the gas utilisation plant (GUP).Once at the GUP, the combustion of the landfill gas, either via the flare or the gas engines, will give rise to sulphur dioxide.Whilst we only have a short set of data available so far, we can see the levels are below the UK Air Quality Standards.We intend to continue this sulphur dioxide monitoring for the remainder of the study.Sulphur dioxide is now being monitored at MMF1, MMF9 and MMF6.
Full details and interpretation of results are provided in the Monthly Air Quality Monitoring Reports which are uploaded to Citizen Space here
When is hydrogen sulphide found indoors?
Indoor concentrations of hydrogen sulphide depend on outdoor concentrations. When hydrogen sulphide is present outside there is potential for it to slowly migrate indoors, through the building infrastructure.
Frequently asked Questions and Answers provided by the UK Health Security Agency (UKSHA)
UKSHA – The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), which incorporates some of Public Health England’s (PHE) former health protection functions, provides advice and technical support to the environmental health and public health teams in local authorities and other public health stakeholders. Its role is to prevent and respond to external health threats by providing expert health protection advice and scientific knowledge.Please click here to access the FAQs
Frequently asked Questions and Answers provided by Staffordshire County Council
Here is a link to the Walleys Quarry information on the county council website: https://bit.ly/3E55Kkb
Why did you grant planning permission for a landfill site near a residential area?
The extraction of clay from the site for making bricks and tiles commenced around 1900. In 1946 new legislation withdrew ‘old’ rights for surface mineral working and a new express grant of permission was required. Therefore in 1948, two permissions were issued by Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council allowing the continued working of clay and deposit of waste materials. At the time Knutton Manor Colliery was located to the west of the site and a sewage farm to the east, with the Poolfields residential estate beyond that.
In 1991, an Act of Parliament required that the 1948 permissions be registered with Staffordshire County Council (SCC) in its role as Mineral Planning Authority. The applicant was also required to submit a new set of modern operating and restoration conditions. At this point, SCC added conditions to limit the time period for the landfilling operations and restrict the type of waste deposited to inert materials only (ie, those that don’t cause odours) to minimise disturbance to the local community. The operator at the time appealed against these restrictions and the appeal was upheld by the Secretary of State in November 1997 which meant that non-special industrial, commercial and demolition waste plus mineral waste could be imported to the site for a specific time period.
What are the conditions of planning permission?
The latest Scheme of Conditions was determined under application number N.12/09/216 MW which can be found here on the SCC website. This scheme modified the Scheme of Conditions issued by the Secretary of State in 1997. Legislation now requires that a review of such mineral permissions to bring them up to modern standards takes place at least every 15 years with the next review due to take place not before 2031. Two legal agreements are also in place and these can also be found on the County Council’s website. The first dates from 1998 and the second from 2016.
What are you doing to monitor compliance with these conditions?
Planning Regulation Team officers make visits to the site, both pre-arranged and unannounced (usually unannounced if in response to a complaint). Where any breaches of planning control that fall under SCC responsibility are identified, in the first instance officers bring these to the attention of the site operator and ask them to remedy the breach (unless the breach was having such a detrimental effect to require immediate formal enforcement action). Where any such breaches have been identified in relation to Walleys Quarry, actions have been taken by the operator to remedy the breach and therefore no formal enforcement action has been taken to date.
Traffic movements are considered by Staffordshire County Council as part of the planning permissions for the sites. They do not form part of the Environmental Permit.
Why are the lorries parking on the roads before the site opens?
The parking of vehicles on the highways has been raised with the operator. The landfill facility opens at 7am. The operator has advised that they have contacted the companies who deliver waste and requested they do not park outside the site before the sites is open. If they observe vehicles parking on the roads adjacent to the site during the day they are requesting they move on.
What controls are in place to reduce litter and waste falling from vehicles?
Waste hauliers have a duty of care to ensure theirs loads are secure. If residents observe waste falling from a vehicle on the public highway please report this to the Environment Agency.
Details of the waste company and vehicle registration number will assist in out investigations. The operator has advised they undertake litter collections along the roads outside of their site.
Last updated 20 September 2021