The mother of a five-year-old boy has won her High Court case against the Environment Agency over the regulation of a Staffordshire landfill site accused of emitting noxious gases that risk shortening her son’s life.
Lawyers for Rebecca Currie’s son Mathew Richards claimed there is a “public health emergency” in the vicinity of Walleys Quarry beside Silverdale, Newcastle-under-Lyme.
They argued hydrogen sulphide emissions being pumped from the facility are affecting “hundreds and probably thousands of local people”.
Now, in a judgement on Thursday morning, Mr Justice Fordham found in Mathew’s favour, ruling that “real and significant change” was required “as a matter of urgency”.
He said he accepted evidence that current hydrogen sulphide levels were placing the child on a pathway to developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition which would dramatically reduce his life expectancy.
He added: “Based on all the evidence – about Mathew, and about the emissions, and about the implications of the emissions for Mathew – I am satisfied that there is a direct effect on Mathew’s home, family life and private life from adverse effects of severe environmental pollution.”
The Environment Agency, whose role is to protect the public from pollution, was joined by Walleys Quarry Ltd, the company causing the pollution, in fighting the claim.
But Judge Fordham ordered that levels of the dangerous emissions must be brought below the level that can be smelled by January.
Although Mathew was at the heart of the case, a key part of the battle also concerned the impact of the foul-smelling emissions on thousands of local residents, who were described as a “community in crisis”.
Widespread physical and mental health problems have been put down to the stench – an odour like rotting eggs — while some have complained of breathing and sleeping difficulties. Rats and gulls have all been seen in large numbers at the site.
Speaking after the ruling, Ms Currie said she was “very pleased”.
She added: “It gives me hope that Mathew will be able to breathe clean air and allow his lungs to develop properly without the horrible poison from Walleys Quarry Landfill Site that he and the rest of the community have had to endure for months and months…
“What’s needed now is for the Environment Agency to step up and use the powers that it has to stop any more waste being brought into the site and take action to prevent the dangerous gases ruining our health and quality of life.”
Newcastle-under-Lyme MP Aaron Bell had previously called the site a “major environmental catastrophe for the town”.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies