Public Health Wales issue statement over landfill air quality

Public Health Wales have, this afternoon, issued a statement concerning the long-term problem air quality problems at the Withyhedge landfill site in Pembrokeshire.

What began as an environmental problem for the community last September, turned into a political one for Wales’ first minster Vaughan Gething, when it emerged that the owner of the company who own the site (RML) donated £200,000 to his leadership campaign.

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The statement reads:

Public Health Wales recognise that local people are very concerned about the odours around the landfill site at Withyhedge. We continue to call for improved air quality data to be provided, to allow us to make a health risk assessment of the site.

This is in addition to our original recommendation that urgent action was taken to address the source of the odours.

This week, Public Health Wales met with elected representatives of neighbouring communities near Withyhedge Landfill, regarding the issue of significant odours emanating from the site.

Since early this year, Public Health Wales have been working with Natural Resources Wales who are the lead agency managing this incident. It is possible that odours and emissions from the site may be harmful to health, but without data is difficult to know for sure. We have consistently presented advice that air quality monitoring is needed to gain an accurate understanding of the potential health impacts of emissions on the local community.

We have now received some long-term air quality data which is currently being reviewed. However, we are still awaiting additional short-term monitoring data as this will enable a more complete picture and allow a fuller assessment of any potential health impacts on neighbouring communities.

Our advice to people remains to keep windows and doors closed when the smells are present and to seek medical advice if necessary. We continue to advocate for urgent action to resolve this issue as soon as possible.

Dr Giri Shankar, Director of Health Protection for Public Health Wales, said: ‘Public Health Wales have been advocating for the odours to be addressed urgently, as well as for detailed independent air quality monitoring to be carried out, for several months. This is the only way we can gain an accurate picture of the potential physical harms to health.

‘Residents have been experiencing distress as a result of the foul smells and their need for a rapid solution is understandable. The impact on mental health should not be underestimated either. We continue to advocate for urgent action to find a resolution to this issue as soon as possible.’

Last month, Natural Resources Wales issued the site operators with an enforcement notice which included measures relating to gas management infrastructure.

At the time, Huwel Manley, Head of South West Operations, NRW, said: ‘We fully understand the growing discontent from the affected communities, and we feel that it is unacceptable for residents and visitors to the area to continue to be affected by these odour and landfill gas emissions.

‘While the pressing work required by the operator progresses over the coming days and weeks, the site remains under investigation and we will continue our regulatory presence.

‘Nothing is off the table. If the series of actions required in this Notice are not complied with, we will have no hesitation to take further enforcement action, considering every option available to us under the regulations, including suspending the environmental permit if appropriate.’

Last week NRW assessed the site and subsequently reported: ‘These assessments are complex and will take some time to complete. As part of this work and follow-up, we will be carrying out a full site landfill gas audit next week. This will examine the effectiveness of the landfill’s gas management system following improvements made in light of the Enforcement Notices, including increased areas of capping and the installation of additional landfill gas wells.’



Paul Day
Paul is the editor of Public Sector News.


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