As well as the unpleasantness of breathing stinky air, people have complained of impacts ranging from nausea and headaches to lost house buyers.
We have liaised with the Environment Agency, who regulates the landfill, from the start to encourage and support them in taking action and to keep residents informed.
The Environment Agency has provided a helpful Question and Answer sheet about the landfill and the current problems and how they are being tackled, which you can download at the bottom of this page. Here are some excerpts (in italics – and slightly edited for length).
What has caused the current problem?
“[The EA] identified areas where gas was being emitted from the current cell and odours were escaping beyond the site boundary. An Environmental Permit breach was recorded against Biffa, as we considered they were not managing gas production within the current cell effectively.”
Biffa blames the heavy rain – is that right?
“Although very high levels of rainfall across the United Kingdom in late 2013 (and continued into 2014) are a contributory factor… this was not the only cause of the problem.
“Additional gas infrastructure was planned to be put in place by Biffa in January 2014, and we are formally investigating the reasons why the gas infrastructure was not installed at an earlier date and what Biffa’s future plans are to prevent a similar event reoccurring.”
What is the Environment Agency been doing about the smell?
The EA required Biffa to produce an action plan, including:
- The installation of additional gas collection wells in Cell 5.
- The installation of gas infrastructure and collection wells in the currently operational Cell 6;
- The sealing of leachate wells, by the installation of new caps.
- The temporary covering and capping of completed areas as quickly as possible.
When will the smell go away?
“The completion of the action plan and specifically the gas infrastructure works should see the smell reducing significantly. We have a further regulatory site inspection arranged for 14 February 2014 to review progress against the action plan.”
As many in the local community are concerned about potential health impacts, the Environment Agency will be carrying out air quality monitoring in the town centre, and working Public Health England and Reigate & Banstead Borough Council to interpret the results. We will press for this to happen as quickly as possible.
Report the smell!
The Environment Agency has a free phone hotline open 24 hours a day – do report the smell when you notice it on 0800 807060. It was the volume of calls that prompted the recent investigation and triggered the improvement works.
And remember that the Environment Agency is having its budget cut and by this time next year will have a fraction of its current staff. We are calling on the Government to reverse cuts to the Environment Agency, who do such important work to protect us and the environment.
Biffa has also produced an update on the smell problem, download Biffa’s update