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Families in ‘UK’s smelliest village’ fear they are being poisoned in their homes

Families in Britain’s smelliest village claim they are being “poisoned in their own homes” due to a stench coming from a landfill site nearby.

Residents in the village near Walleys Quarry in Silverdale have reported feeling unwell due to the round-the-clock exposure to the smell, which is akin to “rotting flesh” or “dirty nappies”.

It comes as the Environment Agency said hydrogen sulphide levels recorded at the site exceeded World Health Organization guidelines.

It prompted calls on Health Secretary Matt Hancock to assess the situation as it is was branded an “off-the-scale environmental disaster”.

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The issue has been branded an ‘off-the-scale environmental catastrophe’

The smell has been affecting residents for years, but “The Silverdale Stink” has become so bad that residents have been forced to tape up their doors and put bags over their windows to try to stop it getting into their homes, StokeOnTrent Live reports.

People say the nasty smell is so unpleasant it burns the back of the throat while others have reported headaches, asthma attacks, stress, anxiety and sleeplessness.

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

It follows more than 5,000 complaints from residents who took to the streets of Newcastle last week in protest calling for action to be taken.

Resident Phebe Smith, 24, said she has ended up trying to sleep on the bathroom floor to escape the smell in her bedroom.

She added: “I was woken up in the middle of the night with a really intense smell that filled my bedroom.

Stop the stink protests
The stench of ‘rotting flesh’ has been around for years

“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.”

Local GP Doctor Paul Scott said: “We’re getting a regular, steady flow of patients with both physical and mental health issues.

“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.”

Tory MP Aaron Bell has also campaigned for something to be done about the situation and has asked for a meeting with Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

He said: “This is the biggest single landfill incident I think the country has seen.

school
A local school said it had parents taking children out of class due to the stench

“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.”

Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine described it as “the worst smell in Britain” when he featured the quarry on his show on Thursday.

The problem has also affected the nearby Royal Stoke University Hospital where staff have complained about smells affecting the wards there.

Schools have also complained that children’s learning and health is suffering and local businesses say customers are staying away from the area.

Aerial view of Walleys Quarry in Silverdale,
Aerial view of Walleys Quarry in Silverdale

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 spokesman 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.”

Dr Nic Coetzee, health protection consultant with Public Health England Midlands, said an analysis of air quality data in March doesn’t point to “any serious impacts to long-term physical health”.

But Dr Ceotzee said it is nonetheless “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”.

A Red Industries spokesman 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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