The Keele Students’ Union and Postgraduate Association joined calls for Walleys Quarry to stop dumping ‘stinking’ materials that have plagued the lives of people in Newcastle-under-Lyme for months at a protest on Saturday.
Although the problem has been ongoing since 2019, this is the first time any SU officers have attended one of the dedicated ‘Stop the Stink’ demonstrations, of which there have been five this year.
Families in the area have been fighting for months to stop the ‘rotten egg’ smell that has permeated their homes, clothes, and possessions, with a number of residents receiving donated air purifiers to combat the smell. Local GP’s have also seen an uptick in air pollution related illnesses in recent months, which they have linked to the landfill.
The SU’s full time officers and the Keele Postgraduate Association acknowledged that the effect the landfill was having on local residents and students both on and off campus was a serious cause for concern but didn’t call for the landfill to be shut down.
Speaking after the protest, they said: “Students have reported impacts to their mental health, wellbeing, and ability to work when the odorous gas is present which can have a significant impact on their studies.”
“The landfill must cease the dumping of materials that contribute to this environmental disaster and take appropriate action to benefit the local community.”
Newcastle Borough Council’s cabinet is also set to hold a special meeting later this month to consider whether to progress with legal action against the operators of the Silverdale landfill site, which has been operated by waste management company Red Industries since 2016.
The council will also be discussing a new scheme where any Newcastle-under-Lyme resident living with a health condition that is being adversely affected by the landfill may be offered a two-day respite stay in hotel accommodation away from the stench.
This comes following emergency capping work which took place in May after the site was found to be in breach of their licence on five counts in an investigation triggered by thousands of complaints. The site, however, is still operational and emitting odour into the local area.
The Environment Agency is also now facing legal action from campaigners on behalf of five-year-old Mathew Richards, who was born prematurely and has suffered significant respiratory problems that were worsened by exposure to the hydrogen sulphide emissions from Walleys Quarry.
The EA insists, however, that they are ‘doing everything within our regulatory powers to stop landfill gas emissions escaping from the site and impacting local people.’ MP’s visiting the site have not ruled out a change in the law to help the Environment Agency tackle similar problems in the future.