Wearside odour beaters kicking up a stink with Brussels

Councillors, Sheila Ellis and Colin Wakefield at Houghton Quarry where the Environmental Agency are investigating water pollution.

Councillors, Sheila Ellis and Colin Wakefield at Houghton Quarry where the Environmental Agency are investigating water pollution.

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ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners are in Brussels today as their fight to close a controversial landfill goes to the European Parliament.

The Residents Against Toxic Site (Rats) group claims Houghton Quarry landfill site is a stench-causing eyesore and believes it is polluting the air and water supply.

Rats members Colin Wakefield and Sheila Ellis – elected as independent councillors on an anti-tip ticket – were due to address the European Parliament’s petitions committee on the issue today.

It is the second time the group has taken its case to Europe. Coun Wakefield, who represents Copt Hill, took part in a series of meetings in Brussels on the issue in 2008.

He said: “Day in day out disgusting smells and vermin, flies, rats and thousands of seagulls blight our daily lives and the as yet to be properly investigated health effects of this environmental madness in the midst of our once lovely little town.”

The Environment Agency (EA) has taken action over the landfill site – operated by waste firm Biffa – twice in less than two years.

The Government agency’s pollution prevention control team said new measures to alleviate the smell had been put in place after it received 247 complaints in two years from residents about the tip – 95 per cent of them “odour-related”.

In February last year, the EA announced it had found higher-than-normal levels of ammonia in groundwater near Houghton Quarry.

The watchdog ordered the water be removed and launched an investigation into the possible source of the pollution – though stressed it would not pose a risk to water supplies.

Coun Ellis, who represents Houghton, said she has supplied evidence to both the European Commission and the European Parliament relating to the landfill site.

She said: “It is saddening that ordinary members of the public have to resort to providing huge volumes of evidence to the European Commission to protect our health and our quality of life.”

The EA and Biffa are yet to comment on Rats’ latest visit to Europe.

In the past, Biffa has said it feels the site is functioning and running well, and Rats continue to bring up the same accusations.

The EA says it always responds to complaints and residents wishing to report incidents can call its hotline on 0800 807060.