An article has been published by The Guardian today about historic landfill sites in the UK, stating that “the contents of hundreds of sites remain unknown” to the Environment Agency (EA), therefore inferring that the EA is responsible for these sites and the potentially hazardous wastes within them.
The article says there are more than 21,000 old landfills scattered across England and Wales, of which 1,287 are categorised as containing hazardous waste which could pose a health risk to people and the environment.
Although the EA maintains a record of the location of all former landfill sites through data collated from a number of sources, it is the responsibility of local authorities to maintain these old sites and more generally to identify contaminated land within their districts.
An Environment Agency spokesperson said:
The Agency is not the regulator of former landfill sites and we are not funded to undertake any investigative work in this area.
Under environmental law, local councils in England are responsible for identifying contaminated land within their districts. Should they choose to identify old landfill sites as such, known as ‘Special Sites’, then the Environment Agency will become responsible for mitigating any risks.
The EA currently regulates 18 landfills that are permitted to accept hazardous wastes. These sites have been developed and are operated in accordance with the relevant requirements of the Landfill Directive (99/31/EC).
The Agency also has a statutory responsibility to supply information to Local Planning Authorities on the risks posed by landfill sites which still have an active environmental permit and where any development is planned within 250m.