Information on Pilsworth South Landfill, Pilsworth Road, Unsworth, Bury BL9 8QZ

Closes 8 Aug 2025

Opened 1 Mar 2024

Overview

We have created this page to provide easy access to information on Pilsworth South Landfill Site.

Since November 2023, we have recorded an increased number of reports of odour from Pilsworth South Landfill site.

We will keep the community up to date with any developments on our response to the increased reports and will share any new updates here. Please check back regularly for further information.

What you will find in this page:

  • The role of the Environment Agency
  • What is the Environment Agency doing?
  • Who else is involved
  • Reporting odour
  • Health related information
  • April 2024 newsletter
  • FAQ's

The role of the Environment Agency

Valencia Waste Management Limited holds an environmental permit for waste activities (disposal by landfill) and the Environment Agency regulates the site to monitor compliance with the conditions in the permit.

The Environment Agency’s job is to balance the needs of people and the environment. As part of this we are responsible for permitting and regulating landfill sites, so they don’t harm people or the environment. We can never totally remove the impact, but it is our duty to set high standards for operators and require them to meet these even where that is difficult.

The Environment Agency carries out monitoring and checks to see if an operator is meeting the standards we set. When they don’t, we investigate and take action. In doing this we have to follow both the law and the Regulator’s Code (set by government) which ensures we treat operators fairly.

What is the Environment Agency doing?

Our focus is to make sure that the site operator, Valencia, takes the right actions to minimise odour. We know that odour is very distressing for people and it affects all aspects of wellbeing.

We are:

  • Increasing our compliance inspection frequency of the site and have additional Environment Agency officers in the community carrying out odour checks. You may see some of our officers out and about in your area. We carry out these checks in order to verify the source and intensity of the odour in the area.
  • Investigating the source of the odours, which we currently believe to be coming from waste on site. Where we find unacceptable levels of odour coming from the site, we will use the appropriate regulatory powers to ensure that the operators fix the problem as soon as possible.
  • On 9th May 2024 our Mobile Monitoring Facility known as an MMF was installed at Our Lady and St Pauls RC Primary School, Sutherland Rd, Heywood, which is near to Pilsworth South Landfill Site. The MMF will collect data for approximately three months.

Who else is involved.

The Environment Agency is leading a multi-agency group that has been set up in response to the odours coming from Pilsworth South Landfill Site. The other members of the group are UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), Bury Council and Rochdale Borough Council.

Reporting Odour

We would like to thank the people who have taken the time to report odours.

This information is instrumental and helps us to build a picture of the extent and impact of the issue.

We encourage residents to continue to report odour to our free 24/7 incident hotline on:

0800 80 70 60

Health related concerns:

We know that many of you are continuing to experience unpleasant effects of odour pollution from Pilsworth South landfill. We understand that unpleasant strong smells can impact on wellbeing, so we would like to explain more about the effects of odour on health, and what we can do to provide you with further information about this going forwards.

The Environment Agency is working with UKHSA, Bury Council, and Rochdale Borough Council to further understand the impact of the odour issues on your health and wellbeing. We appreciate that this will be concerning and you will want the problem resolved.

The environmental permits issued by the Environment Agency include conditions that require the operator of the site to ensure they protect the environment and human health. In the case of odour pollution, the operator of the permitted site is required take steps to “prevent or where that is not possible, to minimise odour to a level that is not likely to cause pollution, as perceived by an Environment Agency officer”.

Sites that have the potential to cause odour are required to use appropriate infrastructure, management techniques and abatement equipment to tackle the odour pollution. As the regulator it is our role to robustly challenge the operators of these sites to ensure their systems are fit for purpose and operate effectively.  Where sites are not doing this and we are made aware of odour reports, we will provide advice and guidance, use our enforcement powers or in serious cases, prosecute the operator of the site.

This message has been developed by the Environment Agency, UKHSA, Bury and Rochdale Borough Council to address heath concerns raised by the community affected by Pilsworth South Landfill Site.

What can I smell?

The odour pollution from landfill sites falls into two broad categories.

The first is the waste odour, this is caused by fresh waste rapidly decomposing and tends to come from vehicles traveling to and from the site and whilst it is tipped. This is similar to the odours that are contained within a domestic bin. This can be tackled by depositing the waste quickly and covering it with soils called “daily cover”.

The second type of odour is landfill gas. This is gas generated by the breakdown of the waste inside the body of the landfill site. Landfill gas is mostly methane and carbon dioxide, which are odourless and colourless. However, the landfill gas also contains trace components such as hydrogen sulphide that, even in very small quantities, has a strong smell of rotten eggs, which the human body is very sensitive to. Although the smell caused by the trace levels of hydrogen sulphide gas can be strong and unpleasant, it does not automatically mean that it is harmful. Our sense of smell is very sensitive and we can smell hydrogen sulphide at very low levels.

Are the smells causing or going to cause health effects?

The human nose is very sensitive. There are many things that have a strong smell at levels at which there are no direct harmful effects to health. However, strong smells are unpleasant and can impact on wellbeing leading to stress and anxiety. Some people may also experience symptoms, such as nausea, headaches or dizziness, as a reaction to strong smells, even when the substances that cause those smells are themselves not harmful to health.

Short-term transient health effects may be experienced such as irritation to the eyes, nose and throat. People who have health conditions that affect breathing, such as asthma, may experience increased frequency and/or severity of symptoms. With continuing exposure these effects may be prolonged but are not anticipated to continue long-term once exposure is reduced.

Following exposure to any substance, the adverse health effects depend on several factors, including the amount to which you are exposed (dose), the way in which you are exposed, the duration of exposure, the form of the chemical and if you were exposed to any other chemicals. The first noticeable effect of hydrogen sulphide at very low concentrations is its unpleasant odour, which may cause discomfort and some short-term health effects. At higher concentrations it may cause eye, nose and throat irritation. It may also disturb sleep if experienced at night at low levels.

What can I do to reduce symptoms caused by odour?

In order to limit the effects of the odour as much as possible, we would advise:

  • Close windows if there is an outdoor odour and open them once any outdoor odour has reduced.
  • You could consider closing windows at night and opening them in the morning in the absence of odour.
  • Ventilate your property when there is no odour outdoors.
  • Contact NHS 111 or your GP if you have concerns about your individual circumstances and require health advice.

Odours can be transient and are more likely to occur overnight and in the early hours of the morning when weather conditions are calm and still. Close windows in the evenings if there is an outdoor odour, and open them in the morning once any outdoor odour has reduced

What is being done to understand the potential health impact of the odour on local residents, and how long will this take?

The Environment Agency is carrying out odour checks in the areas where they are receiving complaints from the community to assess the impact it is having.

The Environment Agency are undertaking handheld Jerome Hydrogen Sulphide monitoring to understand the geographical extent of the odour concerns and target the potential sources on the site.

A Jerome, which is a portable handheld instrument, provides a snap-shot hydrogen sulphide monitoring air quality measurement, which can give an indication of ambient background levels of air quality.

It is important to note that both concentration and duration of exposure are required to establish dose which is required to undertake a health risk assessment. Therefore, this type of monitoring does not allow an establishment of dose. However, it can be used to provide an indication of typical H2S levels and can be useful to provide additional measurements in locations alternative to the mobile monitoring facilities (MMFs), which are stationary for a number of months.

Recent updates - May 2024

Our Mobile Monitoring Facility known as an MMF was installed at Our Lady and St Pauls RC Primary School, Sutherland Rd, Heywood, on Thursday 9th May 2024, which is near to Pilsworth South Landfill Site.

The MMF will not replace our officers who will continue to conduct odour checks in the local area to determine if the site is compliant with the conditions of it's Environmental Permit.

The data our MMF captures will enable us to build a detailed picture of the ambient air quality in the area and determine what impact the Pilsworth South landfill site is having on local air quality. It is important to note that the MMF does not just monitor the emissions from the site, it monitors all the ambient air in the local area so other sources such as road traffic, domestic wood burning, and other local emissions will be captured as well. The location at Our Lady and St Pauls RC Primary School is within a residential area where odour pollution has been reported.

The pollutants which will be monitored by the MMF are sulphur dioxide, methane, hydrogen sulphide and particulate matter. We will also monitor meteorological conditions, namely wind direction, wind speed, temperature, and pressure.

It is not possible to measure odour pollution in the way the human nose detects it and how our brain perceives it. Instead, we use methane and hydrogen sulphide as a surrogate, or alternative for measuring odour pollution.

The MMF will collect data for approximately three months and after that it will be removed and we will analyse the data and produce a report, this can take between 2-3 months to complete. The report will be shared with our colleagues at Rochdale Borough Council, Bury Metropolitan Borough Council, and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) who can provide advice on public health.

We will share the report online for residents to view.

If you would like to know more about the MMFs that we use, then you can watch this video on how we typically use them. Please note there will be minor differences at each deployment depending on what pollutants we are looking for. You can find the video on this link:

https://engageenvironmentagency.uk.engagementhq.com/air-quality-monitoring/widgets/60780/videos/3626

Explained diagram of an MMF exterior.

The MMF installed at Our Lady and St Pauls RC Primary School, Sutherland Rd, Heywood.

The MMF displaying the QR code that when scanned takes you straight to the Pilsworth south landfill site public information page.

Odour Pollution Reports

See the table below for a summary of the odour pollution reports received from the public though our National Incident Reporting System (NIRS). The summary is based on their proximity to the Pilsworth South Landfill Site from 1 September 2023 until 30th April 2024.

 

September 2023

1

October 2023

1

November 2023

71

December 2023

97

January 2024

236

February 2024

1735

March 2024

694

April 

107

TOTAL Reports 01 Sept 2023 – 30th April 2024

2942

Please note these are reports only, they have not been verified/substantiated by an environment officer due to the volume of complaints received.

We will update May's figures on or around 3rd June 2024.

Please save this QR code which will take you straight to this page for future updates on the site.


FAQ's

What guarantees do the public have that the control of the smell is long-term (i.e. that there won't be significant breaches in the future)

The permit stipulates the level of controls that must be implemented by Valencia for the life of the site. The Environment Agency ensure the permit is being followed and takes appropriate regulatory action where the permit is not being adhered to. 

What enforcement action is being (or will be) taken by Environment Agency against Valencia for the breaches?

The operator is currently subject to an investigation so the details cannot be shared. The enforcement action will follow our enforcement and sanctions policy as found at: Environment Agency enforcement and sanctions policy - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

When will the public get to see results from air testing & health advice/info?

The Environment Agency test around the perimeter of the site and on the site itself to target any leaks or other sources of gas. We take frequent spot tests for hydrogen sulphide in the community as part of our investigations. The plan is to install a continuous mobile unit within the community, and we are working with Bury and Rochdale Borough Councils and UKHSA to facilitate this as soon as possible. More recently we have purchased additional equipment so that the frequency of these spot checks will not be impacted whilst we wait for the continuous mobile monitoring facility (MMF) to be placed in situ.

Can you advise the PPM levels you've had from the tests and what is the acceptable level for these (so that we know how much above acceptable levels are being experienced by residents)

We have carried out spot checks using the Jerome in the community on 22nd, 27th, 29th Feb and the 2nd and 18th March; the highest reading we have recorded is 0.0124 parts per million on 27th February near B & Q, other outliers in our data are readings of 0.0102 parts per million on 2nd March and 0.0067 parts per million on 2nd March. These readings highlight the potential for the hydrogen sulphide levels to exceed the World Health Organisation (WHO) air quality guideline for odour annoyance.

Some people may experience physical symptoms, such as nausea, headaches or dizziness, as a reaction to strong odours, even when the substances that cause those odours are not at concentrations that are directly harmful to health.

Some residents’ symptoms may be as a result of their reaction to particular odours. The human nose is very sensitive, and there are many things that have a very strong smell, even at concentrations below which there is a direct harmful effect to health. However strong odours are unpleasant and can impact on wellbeing, leading to stress and anxiety.

It is important to note that the Jerome readings only tell us if there is a presence of hydrogen sulphide at a precise location in that moment in time.

The rest of the readings have been between 0 – 0.004 parts per million.

A public health risk assessment will be carried out by assessing continuous data collected over a longer time frame using the MMF. Data received will be compared to appropriate health-based air quality assessment levels.

We will continue monitoring air quality in the area for as long as we deem necessary, to support the data gathered by the MMF when it arrives on site.

Will the issues of the past few months impact on Valencia getting extensions to their licence in the future?

This is purely a decision for the Planning Authority.

What are the longer-term plans for the site?

We have received an application to vary the permit from Valencia. It is to add a recycling centre onto the site to remove metals from waste entering the site in the future. Planning permission has been granted for this activity.

The current planning permission for the landfill site extends until 31st December 2028. We have required the operator to provide us with comprehensive plans to operate the site within the terms of the Environmental Permit whilst the site is operational.

We have asked the Operator to provide future plans for the site on their agreed public engagement platform to keep communities updated.

 

 

This webpage is not part of a consultation. It has been set up to give people easy access to information about Pilsworth South Landfill Site.

If you have any feedback about this page please email: correspondence.gmmc@environment-agency.gov.uk

Please ignore the closing date as this is unrelated to the site.

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