Waste minister vows to hold EA to account over problem landfill

A government minister has called for long-term solutions to put an end to a stench emanating from a notorious landfill site that has been blighting the lives of residents for two years.

Jo Churchill, who was appointed waste minister in September, visited Walleys Quarry last week, when she met with the operators of the landfill as well as school children, residents' groups and Newcastle MP Aaron Bell to hear their concerns.

According to Stoke on Trent Live, Churchill said that within days of taking up her role Bell had written to her demanding a meeting to ensure she understood how important the issue was to the local community.

She also revealed she has received letters from children in the area, and that she understood the strength of feeling around the situation.

The Environment Agency (EA) is currently appealing a High Court ruling, which found that it had failed to protect the life of a five-year-old child in its regulation of the landfill.

Churchill said she would hold the regulator to account, as well as support it in taking appropriate action, while also challenging the operator to address the issue.

She said she wanted to see long-term solutions to the issues at Walleys Quarry, which she  acknowledged had been happening for a long time.

She said: “I’ve met with the EA, I get reports from them weekly.

"I established that very rapidly — I want to know what’s going on, on this site, weekly. I think that puts a level of rigour into it.”

The latest weekly update from the regulator states that the amount of landfill gas captured and processed on site “remains at a very high rate with CLP, the gas contractor, running both engines on full power, generating around 2000KWh electricity — with two enclosed landfill gas flares operational on a 24/7 basis”.

The EA added: “Our action — and the improvements we’ve required Walleys Quarry Ltd to take since March 2021 — has seen a significant reduction in hydrogen sulphide escaping the site, but there is still more for Walleys Quarry Ltd to do in reducing hydrogen sulphide levels to those assessed to be safe by the UK Health Security Agency.”  

Last week, ENDS revealed that levels of Hydrogen Sulphide H2S on site had been so high they had prevented EA staff from inspecting vast areas of the landfill