Withyhedge Landfill Investigation Update - 16 February 2024

Firstly, we want to apologise for the time taken to provide this update on Withyhedge Landfill and our regulatory actions. The situation has been dynamic, and we have wanted to ensure our updates are aligned with key events linked to resolving the odour issues associated with the landfill.

A few weeks ago, the operator for Withyhedge Landfill (Resources Management Ltd, “RML”) submitted a proposal to NRW for installing the required engineering at the site to contain, manage and collect landfill gas on an uncapped area of waste. The proposal was developed to reduce odours as quickly as possible, in response to requests to prioritise this from other organisations and public representatives. However, it would have resulted in the site not being compliant with its permit.  

We reviewed the proposal thoroughly, with the same desire to reduce fugitive emissions and odours in surrounding communities as soon as possible. The proposal contained many unknowns with potential problems for the future, and on balance, we considered the short-term benefit of alleviating odour more quickly was outweighed by the medium to longer term risks.

We acknowledge that for those being adversely affected by the odour this will be a difficult message. We also understand that commitments to the community may have been made by third parties, citing dates at the end of February/early March. These were based around RML’s proposal which NRW explicitly outlined, remained under review at that time.

We have been cautious about providing timescales for seeing a reduction in odour from the site due to the complexities around the decisions that we have had to make.

This week we have served an Enforcement Notice on RML clearly outlining the steps required of them to complete the landfill engineering work to contain and collect landfill gas. Based on our existing understanding of the primary source of odour, the issue should be resolved by a notice deadline of 5 April 2024.

However, work onsite is progressing daily, and we anticipate noticeable reductions in landfill gas emissions and odours in the coming weeks. The work undertaken by RML under their proposal has not delayed or complicated the requirements placed on them by NRW.

The notice served this week is linked to ongoing investigations into permit non-compliances and therefore we cannot make this publicly available at this time.

As part of the work required by the notice, waste from the top of the area to be capped is being relocated into Cell 8, the current operational part of the landfill. We are aware this activity is highly visible from surrounding communities and have received reports of ‘white smoke’ as the waste is disturbed. NRW had officers on site last week and inspected this area of the landfill. We believe the visual emissions are water vapour, caused by the underlying waste beginning to decay and as part of the process generating heat.

Our inspection last week also focussed on Cell 8, following recent reports of the odour being of a waste, opposed to landfill gas nature. We did not detect waste odours emanating specifically from Cell 8. Downwind of the area to be capped a faint waste odour was noted on the landfill, and at one offsite location. A strong landfill gas odour was also detected offsite. We will continue to monitor both types of odours in the surrounding communities.

We appreciate that it may feel as though limited action takes place in response to incidents of odour reported to us. All reports, whether made by phone, the generic online reporting form, or the specific Withyhedge Landfill reporting form are logged on our Wales Incident Reporting System (WIRS). Each report has a unique reference number and is forwarded through to the regulatory team.

At a time when we expect to see work at the landfill start to result in a reduction of fugitive landfill gas emissions and odour, these reports will be especially important.  They will help us assess the effectiveness of the onsite activity, and also if there are other sources of odour. Therefore, we request that instances of odour from the landfill continue to be reported via this dedicated form: Report a smell at Withyhedge Landfill, Pembrokeshire - Natural Resources Wales Citizen Space - Citizen Space (cyfoethnaturiol.cymru)