In 2010, Michelmersh Holdings applied for an extension to their permission for mineral extraction. They asserted that the remaining reserves would allow for a further 25 years of extraction, not including the area under the site buildings. Despite the associated noise, dust and heavy traffic that this would bring the application, it was unopposed by the local population.
Now, with the licence application for asbestos landfill, various parties have been told the following:
- That the exclusion of asbestos could slow the landfill process to up to 25 years.
In the licence application, Michelmersh state that they plan to infill over the course of 5 to 6 years with 41,250 tonnes per annum of non-hazardous waste and 1,500 tonnes per annum of asbestos. Even if the asbestos were ruled out, the remaining NH would still fill the hole in 8.18 years.
- That the alternative to asbestos is to include putrescible waste, attracting vermin such as seagulls, pigeons and rats and giving off noxious smells.
The site does not support the necessary methane disposal – either collection and removal for use, or burn off. Methane production from a domestic landfill site will often continue for 25 years after being capped, so it’s unlikely that it would fit with the existing planning permission which requires that the majority of the site be restored by 2040.
The site would require the installation of an expensive and not wholly reliable man-made liner to prevent leachate from entering the aquifer below.
There has been suggestion from the local residents that the site be filled with only inert waste, but this was rejected by Martin Warner as not financially attractive.
There was a further suggestion that the site be allowed to ‘return to nature’ with minimal input. The response from Mr Warner suggested residents apply for a National Lottery grant, so clearly the main motivator is financial return, not simply an early closure of what has become an unprofitable site.
The signals from Michelmersh regarding site safety are mixed. Some residents have been told that all asbestos will be wrapped before arriving in Ley Hill, but the risk assessment (p14/20) states that SNRHW will arrive as bagged OR bonded materials.
The same section also mistakenly states that prolonged exposure to asbestos can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, gastrointestinal cancer, colorectal cancer, throat, kidney, esophagus and gallbladder cancers, asbestosis and other non-malignant lung and pleural disorders.