Walleys Quarry: Mother of 5-year-old wins case against Environment Agency over quarry gases

Walley's Quarry Landfill Site, in Silverdale, Staffordshire

A judge has ruled in favour of a mother of a five-year-old boy who made a legal case against the regulator of a Staffordshire landfill site, they are accused of emitting noxious gases that risk shortening her disabled son's life.

The High Court has found that, in order to protect Mathew’s human rights, there must be “real and significant change, as a matter of urgency” and that levels of dangerous emissions must be brought below the level that can be smelled in a matter of weeks.

The levels of hydrogen sulphide must be reduced to a level less than an eighth of the level that can be smelled by January 2022.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Fordham said that he was “not satisfied, on the evidence, that officials within the EA have done what compliance with the applicable legal duties requires".

The Court has therefore set clear targets which the Environment Agency has to work towards and a timeframe for doing so.

And the Court stressed that “there is an obvious and pressing public interest imperative” that the Environment Agency must reduce levels “as a matter of urgency”.

In reaching these conclusions, the Court accepted the medical evidence of Dr Ian Sinha of Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool, who had described the “unexpectedly excessive burden of respiratory illness and death in Silverdale” as a “public health emergency”.

Walleys Quarry

Lawyers for Rebecca Currie's son Mathew Richards claim there is a "public health emergency" in the vicinity of the Quarry in Silverdale, Newcastle-under-Lyme, arguing hydrogen sulphide (H2S) emissions are affecting "hundreds and probably thousands of local people".

At a hearing in August, the boy's legal team asked for a mandatory court order requiring the Environment Agency (EA) to take "effective measures" to remove the risk to his life and his family's home posed by H2S emissions from the landfill.

His lawyers also accused the regulator of "failing" to take measures and being in breach of Mathew's human rights.

Mathew and Rebecca

Ms Currie previously said that Mathew was born prematurely at 26 weeks with a chronic lung disease and needed oxygen support for 19 months.

She also said that as she lives half a mile away from the landfill, she will be forced to move away from her home if the legal action failed.

During the hearing, the EA argued there is not a real and immediate risk to Mathew's life.

They say Public Health England's position is that "currently any risk to long-term health is likely to be small, but a risk cannot completely be excluded if exposure were to continue at current levels".

The court heard the agency, which is monitoring the site's air-quality levels, had taken "very substantial steps" at the landfill site and "continues to keep matters under review".

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