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  • Nantygwyddon Speech

    Thanks for the opportunity to speak although there is not enough time to document all the problems.

    I submitted this petition to the European Parliament in 1998 because of the lack of action by the responsible authorities in the UK to prevent further damage to the environment or to health from so called non-hazardous landfill sites. I live directly below the Nantygwyddon site which is situated on a mountain top in a narrow valley with a population of 70,000, a third of whom live in villages in the direct vicinity of the landfill.

    It was officially opened in September 1988 and was hailed as a modern "engineered" landfill which would not have any adverse environmental impact. It received the first ever European grant for a landfill site in the UK - 1.3 million was given before the construction works began. Due to the instability of the mountainside when the road was constructed the cost of construction rose considerably and the EEC agreed to give a further grant of 2.2 million - this was the only project in the UK to receive a second grant. These figures are completely different from those I received from the Commission in a written answer recently (784,000) which seems indicative of the whole sorry saga of this site - we can never get to the truth. The other point, of course, is that EEC money was used to construct what has been since shown to be a site with serious design and construction faults.

    I was a councillor representing that area for seven years before I was elected to the European Parliament. As a councillor I received several complaints from residents from 1992 about leachate from the tip bubbling through soil in woodlands below the site but when I took up these complaints with the Rhondda Borough Council, who then ran the tip, I was told it was completely harmless.

    In 1994 the council set up an arms length company to run the landfill site, as they were required to do by law. This company reported several faults with the site when they took over : the liner could not be found in some areas, the leachate control system did not work, the stacks built to channel the landfall gas had collapsed and so on. This suggested serious mismanagement of the site previous to 1995.

    By summer 1996 there were foul smells from the tip coupled with numerous reports of burning eyes, sore throats and sickness in the local area. As a result of the public concern we organised meetings to discuss the problems and first discovered that there had been several instances of rare birth defects and high numbers of therapeutic abortions.

    The smells themselves were caused by the deposit of calcium sulphate filter cake from a nearby factory, Purolite International Ltd.

    In October 1990, Her Majesty's Inspector of Pollution advised that the organic content of filter cake waste from Purolite International Limited "has the potential to contaminate surface or ground water" and that therefore it should be segregated from organic waste at landfill sites and mixed with inert material.

    In March 1995 a neighbouring council commissioned a report into the smells at their local landfill site and it showed that it was caused by this same chemical filter cake when mixed with household waste. It was banned at that site. But it came straight to the Nantygwyddon landfill site.

    It is alleged that the waste regulator at Rhondda Borough Council originally rejected the deposit of this material at Nantygwyddon but that this rejection was over-ruled on the grounds that it generated income of 400 per tonne compared with 30 per tonne for organic refuse.

    As a result, nearly 30,000 tonnes of Purolite were deposited at Nantygwyddon and mixed with municipal waste. This caused the emission of hydrogen sulphide gases with a maximum concentration almost 5,000 times higher than UK municipal landfill sites. This has created a. reservoir of sulphate which lasts for 985 years! A report commissioned by the Environment Agency in January 1998 stated that the air above the Nantygwyddon site is prone to contamination by Hydrogen Sulphide in concentrations in excess of 50,000 parts per billion. This exceeded the site's odour threshold by factors of up to 194 million,

    So the evidence suggests that the affects of mixing this filter cake with organic and household refuse were well known and well documented before the waste was accepted at Nantygwyddon.

    In January 1998, Bro Taf Health authority agreed to set up health information clinics in communities affected by the tip and asked the local authority if concurrent monitoring of local air quality could be arranged. The clinics operated between 20th April and 12th June 1998 but air quality sampling was carried out by the Council s consultant between 27th July and 8th August. So, when the Health Authority published their descriptive survey of ill health around Nantygwyddon in January 1999 it stated that they "cannot prove that the higher frequency of symptoms was caused by the landfill site because concurrent monitoring data is not available.'

    The Council received the report from its consultants in December 1998 but kept it secret until after the Health Authority survey was published. This broke the vital link between local ill-health and tip gasses and wasted 100,000 of public money. The Welsh Office refined to intervene.

    The EUROHAZCON Study published in the Lancet Medical Journal in October 1998, which I refer to in my Petition, found that between 1983 and 1996, congenital abnormalities amongst children with mothers living within 3KM of landfills were 33% higher than elsewhere.

    The statistics relating to the area surrounding the so-called "non-hazardous" Nantygwyddon Landfill Site in Rhondda, Wales are particularly disturbing. In the immediate vicinity of Nantygwyddon, birth defects were twice the norm between 1990 and 1996. In this period, Gastroschisis cases - which is a congenital defect characterized by incomplete closure of the abdominal wall with protrusion of the intestines - were almost ten times higher than expected.

    The government's current programme of research to investigate landfills and the Small Area Health Statistics Unit study of birth anomalies and some cancers will include the Nantygwyddon site. This was due in mid June but is still not available.

    Article 4 of the Waste Framework Directive (75/442/EEC) as amended by Directive 91/156/EEC states:

    "Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that waste is recovered or disposed of without endangering human health and without using processes or methods which could harm the environment, and in particular:

    without risk to water, air, soil and plants and animals,

    * without causing a nuisance through noise or odours.

    * without adversely affecting the countryside or places of special interest."

    I firmly believe that, in the case of the Nantygwyddon landfill site, that this article has been breached. Waste has been disposed of in a way which endangers human health and which harms the environment. It is a matter of fact that water, air and soil have been polluted. The evidence is compelling that the site is damaging human health.

    I contend that the relevant authorities in the United Kingdom have singularly failed to ensure that the necessary steps were taken to control the dumping of waste at Nantygwyddon and have subsequently been ineffective in tackling the problems.

    I believe that there is a clear case for the Commission to pursue the matter under this Article, and I welcome the steps that have already been taken.

    Mrs Evans then reiterated the request of Jean Lambert MEP that a member of the community action group be allowed to address the committee.


    Photo: Jill Evans