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Waste Management: Toxic Dumping

Volume 691: debated on Monday 16 April 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 8 March (WA 75), what was the depth of Brofiscin quarry prior to the commencement of dumping in 1965; which was the last portion of the quarry to be filled; whether the quarry was full when it was capped in about 1972; and, if so, whether they will reconsider the basis for their calculations of the volume of toxic waste contained in the quarry. [HL2767]

The original depth of the Brofiscin quarry would have been approximately 6 metres below current surface levels.

The last portion of the quarry to be filled was the eastern end. The quarry was not entirely filled and a properly engineered cap was not fitted. The ground is now covered with patchy scrub, grass and trees.

I am advised that the total area of contaminated land is around 1.26 hectares and that it contains some 72,000 cubic metres of waste material. As this estimate is based on the best available information, revision of these figures is not thought to be necessary at this time.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 8 March (WA 75), whether the site at Brofiscin quarry is designated a special site; whether such a designation would be appropriate if the volume of toxic waste stated is correct; what the expenditure has been on investigations of the toxic waste to date; and what is the projected total expenditure. [HL2768]

The Brofiscin quarry has been designated as a special site because of the substances present and the specific geology of the site (carboniferous limestone). This is not related to the volume of waste that was accepted at the site.

The costs incurred to date by the Environment Agency (EA), which include site investigation, drilling, monitoring, analytical costs and interpretation, are approximately £800,000. Additional legal costs have been incurred for counsel and advice with regard to the proceedings in the United States, to the sum of £17,000.

The EA is also conducting extensive inquiries to determine who should bear responsibility for remedial actions and associated costs.

A full interpretative report is due to be published by the EA in April. The report will bring together the findings of the recent drilling work and monitoring to present a three-dimensional picture of the quarry. This will help us to understand the extent to which contamination is migrating into the surrounding rock, groundwater and surface waters. The EA, Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council and the Welsh Assembly Government will be liaising on possible further work at the quarry based on the findings of the April report. It is not, therefore, currently possible to assess the likely total expenditure.

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 8 March (WA 75) on waste management and toxic dumping at specific locations, whether they will indicate which analytical reports and civil engineering reports they have considered. [HL2772]

In Wales, responsibility for policy on waste management and contaminated land lies with the National Assembly, which receives specialist advice from the Environment Agency (EA) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA). In relation to Brofiscin quarry, the EA has looked at all the available reports—including those listed in my Written Answer to the noble Countess on 8 March (WA 72)—in developing a conceptual site model. The Welsh Assembly Government are providing funding for the development of the model to aid in the assessment of potential remediation options.

In relation to the Maendy site, consideration was given to the report of a study carried out by the Department of the Environment in 1975.

In respect of the Solutia site at Newport, a report was produced in 2005, which included the assessment of opportunities for bio-accumulation of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) within the food chain due to releases to the Severn estuary. The FSA reviewed this assessment and concluded that the operation was unlikely to have any unacceptable effects on the food chain.

The EA has no information in its records concerning the origins of any wastes deposited at the Rayleigh site. This site was operated and closed prior to 1974 and neither the EA nor the predecessor authority for waste (Essex County Council) was responsible for the day-to-day regulation of the site. The information that the EA holds on pre-1974 landfills is provided to it by the district council that authorised such sites, usually by way of planning permission.

For the landfill site known as Bennett Bank, near Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria, a pollution prevention and control (PPC) application was submitted on 7 May 2004 and contained an environmental setting and installation design report (ESID) together with a hydrogeological risk assessment (HRA), a stability risk assessment (SRA), a landfill gas risk assessment (GRA) and a habitats impact assessment. These reports would have all contained analytical data that the EA used in considering the application for a PPC permit for the Bennett Bank landfill sites.

During the permitting process, further questions were asked in support of the technical aspects of the application on 9 and 16 July 2004. The responses to these contained further analytical data and were material considerations used by the EA in deciding to grant a PPC permit for the facility, a decision made on 7 November 2005.