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People in Britain’s smelliest village fear they are ‘being poisoned’

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Locals in Silverdale, Staffordshire, have complained of a nauseating eggy stench coming from a nearby quarry for several years (Picture: SWNS)

Residents of a village are left struggling to breathe and sleep after being plagued by a smell like ‘rotting flesh’ or ‘dirty nappies’ from a nearby landfill.

Locals in Silverdale, Staffordshire, have complained of a nauseating eggy stench coming from Walleys Quarry for several years – but it has recently become unbearable.

Unprecedented levels of hydrogen sulphide gas have now been recorded at the landfill, and people fear they are being ‘poisoned in their own homes’.

More than 5,000 residents have complained and protested on the streets of Newcastle-under-Lyme last week calling for action to be taken.

Conservative MP Aaron Bell said: ‘This is the biggest single landfill incident I think the country has seen.

‘This is off the scale. This is clearly having an effect on people’s physical health, but also their mental health.

‘This is a major environmental catastrophe for the town.

‘We’ve got so much investment coming in, but if we have this hanging over the town, quite literally, people aren’t going to want to come and shop and eat on our high street.’

Unprecedented levels of hydrogen sulphide gas have been recorded near Walleys Quarry, and appears to be causing people to become unwell (Picture: SWNS)
More than 5,000 residents have complained and protested on the streets of Newcastle-under-Lyme last week calling for action to be taken (Picture: SWNS)

Now dubbed ‘The Silverdale Stink’, in recent weeks the smell has become so bad those living nearby have taped up their doors and put bags over their windows to stop it from getting into their homes.

Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine described it as ‘the worst smell in Britain’ after featuring the quarry on his show on Thursday.

The company which runs the site, Red Industries, has been issued with an enforcement notice by the Environment Agency for five breaches of its licence.

The agency said hydrogen sulphide levels from the site exceeded guidelines from the World Health Organisation.

Residents claim the smell from the landfill burns the back of the throat and even causes headaches, asthma attacks, stress, anxiety and sleeplessness.

Phebe Smith said she has ended up trying to sleep on the bathroom floor to escape the smell in her bedroom.

‘We are being poisoned in our own homes’

‘I was woken up in the middle of the night with a really intense smell that filled my bedroom,’ added the 24-year-old.

People say is smells like like ‘rotting flesh’ or ‘dirty nappies’, with a ‘hint of egg’ (Picture: SWNS)

‘I was so upset by it and really struggling to breathe and I was very panicked that I couldn’t breathe, so I went into the bathroom because that was the least intense place to be in the house – I was trying to outrun the smell.

‘We have been left with headaches, lethargy, nausea and have stinging eyes from the intense stench that fills our homes – this happens every day and night.

‘We are being poisoned in our own homes.’

‘Nappies, rotting flesh and a hint of egg’

Billy Townsend, 38, who also lives nearby, said: ‘It’s revolting, nobody should be forced to live like this. It’s Third World stuff.

‘It makes you physically wretch and causes really bad headaches. At night it can be impossible to sleep.

‘It smells like nappies, or rotting flesh, but with a hint of egg as well. Basically think of all the worst smells you come across in everyday life and put them all together.

‘It literally burns the back of your throat and makes your eyes sting – its more than just a smell, it physically hits you as well.’

‘Randomly disturbed sleep’

Local GP Paul Scott confirmed he has seen patients with increased asthma issues and also disturbed sleep patterns as a result.

One woman said she was forced to sleep on her bathroom floor to escape the smell coming from the landfill (Picture: SWNS)

‘We’re getting a regular, steady flow of patients with both physical and mental health issues,’ he explained.

‘Asthma treatments are having to be stepped up and the smell interferes with peoples breathing, eyes and irritation.

‘But I think the thing that hits us most as GPs is the mental health side. A lot of people who used to sleep perfectly well are having randomly disturbed sleep.’

The problem has reportedly also affected nearby Royal Stoke University Hospital.

‘Children are unable to concentrate’

Schools have also complained of the impact on children’s learning and health.

Newcastle School headteacher Catherine Pointon said: ‘The smell is often most prevalent on arrival in the morning after the building has absorbed it overnight.

‘We have had children complaining of the smell, being unable to concentrate, not wanting to play outside.

‘On at least five occasions members of staff have had to investigate a suspected gas leak only to realise that it was the smell from the quarry.

‘On arrival at school, we have also had complaints from parents regarding the smell and, on one occasion, a parent has returned home with their child as they were not happy to leave them with us.’

A Staffordshire County Council spokesperson said: ‘There are ongoing problems of odour in west Newcastle, in the vicinity of Walleys Quarry and further afield.

‘A range of agencies including the Environment Agency, Public Health England, Staffordshire County Council and Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council are working together to monitor and try to remedy the situation.’

Schools have also complained of the impact on children’s learning and health (Picture: SWNS)
But Public Health England says there will be no serious impacts on the long-term health of residents (Picture: SWNS)

‘No serious impacts to long-term health’

Dr Nic Coetzee, health protection consultant with Public Health England (PHE) Midlands, said: ‘PHE appreciates the ongoing situation concerning strong odours in areas around Walleys Quarry Landfill must be very distressing for residents.

‘Air quality data analysed for March does not indicate any serious impacts to long-term physical health.

‘However some people may experience symptoms such as nausea, headaches or dizziness.

‘People who have health conditions which affect breathing may experience increased frequency and/or severity of symptoms – if people have any health concerns, they should contact their local GP or ring NHS 111.

‘It is important to acknowledge that this kind of persistent, unpleasant odour can affect people’s mental wellbeing, causing stress, anxiety, problems sleeping and disruption to general activities.’

Dr Coetzee added PHE is working with the Environment Agency, the NHS and local councils to tackle the issue.

Clare Dinnis, West Midlands area director with the Environment Agency said: ‘We know and understand how much the odour from the operations at Walleys Quarry is impacting people’s lives.

‘We’re holding Red Industries to account for their operations and doing everything within our power to bring its operation into compliance as quickly as possible.

‘Monitoring is an important part of our regulation: monitoring and odour checks led to us to issue Red Industries with an enforcement notice requiring them to put solutions in place to minimise odour from the landfill.

‘In the coming weeks, there will be a site emissions survey, to assess odour levels after Red Industries have completed the capping works. If odour remains, we will take further steps to make sure Red Industries effectively manage odour from the site.’

A Red Industries spokesperson said: ‘We recognise that we are hosted by the local communities in which we operate and are acutely aware of their concerns regarding our landfill operations.

‘We have voluntarily curtailed operations to accelerate an extensive capping programme which will seal a substantial and extensive area of the site.

‘This capping programme will continue throughout the remaining life of the quarry, which will stop accepting waste in December 2026, at which point the area will be restored to green field.’

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