Escrick Waste Treatment Facility

Closes 8 Dec 2024

Opened 1 Aug 2023


Odour issues at Escrick Waste Treatment Facility, North Yorkshire

Page updated on 22 January 2024

This page is intended to provide information on the ongoing odour issue in the Escrick and Riccall areas. This odour is from waste activites associated with Acumen Waste Services Ltd at Escrick Waste Treatment Facility, The Old Brick and Tile Works, Riccall Road, Escrick.

In May and June 2023, our officers inspected sites in the Escrick area after receiving reports of odours. During the inspections officers identified the odour as coming from the waste activities at the Acumen Waste Services Limited site. We found several incidences where the operator had not complied with the conditions of their permit. The odour has been caused from unsuitable storage conditions of waste on the site, which is a mixture of residues (fines) from the prior treatment of municipal waste and construction-demolition waste.

We have worked swiftly and required the operator to put an action plan in place to resolve this problem. The company has provided a plan to remove the waste from site and started to implement that plan on 17 July 2023. 

Further information can be found in our latest newsletter

UPDATE 22 January 2024

Acumen Waste Services have removed the waste fines pile that was the main source of the odour issue. The last removal activity was carried out on the week commencing 13 November 2023. During this time our incident hotline received various odour reports, which were related to the movement of this last amount of waste. These reports stopped once this latest activity was completed.

Since September the amount of reports we have received has significantly reduced. We are liaising with the site to make sure that we are satisfied that all the problematic waste has been removed.

There are some sources of odour on site that are related to materials on the Escrick Environmental Services Ltd site (the landfill). We believe these are unlikely to result in significant impact off-site but they may give rise to occasional off-site odour.  We are liaising with Escrick Environmental Services about removal of these materials.

Officers have recently carried out a gas survey at both the Acumen and Escrisk site. The latest Compliance Assessment Report forms related to these surveys have been uploaded at the bottom of this page and are dated 24.11.23.

This information page was a temporary page to keep people updated on our work at Escrick Waste Treatment Facility. Now that the problematic waste has been removed we will remove this page. We will do this once we are satisfied we do not have any further updates or information to share. 

UPDATE - 20 October 2023

You might have noticed an increase of odour from Acumen Waste Services Ltd in the last few days. This is due to the removal of the last quantities of the odorous waste from the site. Acumen has advised that the removal of waste should be completed in the next couple of weeks, and the odours should then stop. A further update will be provided once all the waste has been removed from the site.

UPDATE - 02 October 2023

Acumen Waste Services Ltd has removed most of the waste pile that was producing gas and causing odour.  Approximately 40,000 tonnes have been removed.  The company has informed us that there is a relatively small amount still to remove – approximately 2,000 tonnes.  Once Acumen Waste Services Ltd notifies us that all the relevant material has been removed we will inspect the site to verify that this is the case.  We will carry out further, proactive odour monitoring for a few weeks to further assess how successful removal of the fines pile has been in addressing the odour pollution that was occurring. 

Your health concerns

Early data, covering the period 21 July 2023 to 10 August 2023, has been shared with our professional partners, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).  We have shared this data with UKHSA early because of local concerns around potential health impacts, particularly concern around emissions of the gas hydrogen sulphide.  UKHSA are experts in health-related data reviews and are aware of, and have taken into account, the limitations of the data that is currently available. Following a review of this data, the UKHSA have shared the statement shown below. The Environment Agency will continue to work with the UKHSA and share updates as appropriate.

Statement from the UK Health Security Agency (updated 20 October 2023):

“Hydrogen sulphide is a colourless gas with a characteristic odour of rotten eggs, to which the human nose is very sensitive, and is a by-product as the on-site waste degrades. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) have reviewed the provisional monitoring data supplied by the Environment Agency for the time period 11 July to 6 October 2023 which confirms exceedances of the odour threshold, however, current levels are far below those associated with harm to health.
We note that the odorous material is currently being removed from the site (as of 20 October 2023) and is expected to be completed within October 2023. During these activities it is expected that there will be short-term increases in the concentrations of hydrogen sulphide, as material is disturbed and removed from the site. 
UKHSA will continue to the review monitoring data as required while air quality testing equipment remains on site.
Any health concerns should be raised with a local GP or by calling the NHS helpline 111.“


How can you help?

Please keep reporting any incidences of odours to us. Please ring our incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60. It is operational 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. 

For more information or to join our distribution list for the newsletter please contact, quoting Escrick newsletter in the title.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the cause of the smell?

The smell is linked to the storage of a large quantity of mixed waste fines consisting of municipal waste and construction-demolition waste. This type of waste contains biodegradable matter.  Due to unsuitable storage conditions, waste started degrading and producing odorous gas. The migration of the gas off-site is what is causing the odour.

What are biodegradable waste fines?

Waste fines are residues from mechanical waste recycling processes. Waste fines stored on site are residues generated after separating out the larger materials from mixed municipal waste (black bin waste) and construction – demolition waste (soils and stones, wood, concrete, bricks). This type of waste contains  biodegradable materials that households dispose of in their black bins.

How long will it take to remove the waste?

Waste removal started on 17 July 2023. The company has committed to removing the material as soon as possible but, due to the quantity involved, it could take up to 4 months to complete the task. This timeframe has been estimated based on an average removal rate of 500 tonnes per day, Monday to Friday. As of 26 July 2023, the company was ahead of this schedule.

Why did the Environment Agency allow this waste to be brought in?

Acumen Waste Services Ltd’s waste permit allows them to accept and store waste fines, however the permit requires that waste is managed and stored appropriately. Permit breaches have been identified and recorded but these do not relate the storage of non-permited waste.  Details of the permit breaches that have been recorded are available below.

 CAR form 16/06/23 CAR form 27/06/23 CAR form 10/07/23                    CAR form 27/07/23

Is there a health risk associated with the odour?

Please see the above statement provided by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). If people have any health concerns they should contact their local GP or call the NHS helpline 111 in the first instance.  

Why hasn't Accumen taken action to stop the odour immediately?

The odour is caused primarily by the venting of gas that is being produced as the waste fines degrade.  This is a passive process and will occur on an on-going basis while the waste remains in situ.  There is nothing that can be done immediately that will prevent the passive venting of gas and therefore odour.  After careful consideration of the options it has been decided that the most appropriate course of action is for the material to be removed from site and sent for appropriate treatment and disposal at appropriately permitted sites elsewhere.  However, due to the quantity of material involved removal will take some time.  Acumen has estimated it may take up to 4 months.  During this time there may be increased potential from emissions of odour.

What enforcement action are you taking?

Non compliances with the permit have been scored on our compliance assessments and records of these are at the bottom of this page. We cannot comment on the ongoing investigation at present, however we take offending seriously and act in accordance with our Enforcement and Sanctions Policy which can be found on here: Environment Agency enforcement and sanctions policy - GOV.UK (

Why hasn’t the Environment Agency served an Enforcement Notice requiring the removal of the material?

The use of an Enforcement Notice is being kept under review.  We have decided that a Notice is not currently required because the operator is implementing its compliance action plan voluntarily.  If this situation changes we will review whether use of an Enforcement Notice is appropriate.

Why will it take so long to remove the waste and why haven't we acted to reduce the timeframe?

The compliance action plan that is being implemented aims to remove on average 500 tonnes of waste each day, five days a week.  This is a very significant undertaking in terms of logistics.  The fact that it may take up to four months to remove the fines waste is a reflection of the quantity of material that requires removal rather than a slow removal rate.  We believe that Acumen are committed to removing the waste as quickly as possible.  At the end of July 2023 Acumen was ahead of schedule, having removed on average more than 500 tonnes per day, five days per week and having removed approximately one quarter of the estimated total quantity.

Is there an explosion risk?

The gas that is being produced contains methane.  Methane in air can result in an explosive atmosphere when the methane concentration is in the range of 5% – 17%.  We have measured the near surface concentration of methane at or immediately above the surface of the waste pile and it is much lower than the lower explosive limit of 5%.  The highest concentration we measured during our survey was 2,600 parts per million.  This equates to 0.26%.  This is the highest concentration at source.  The concentration will then reduce as the gas disperses away from the source.  So, we are confident that there is no risk of explosion on the Acumen site or off-site as a result of the gas that is being produced as the waste degrades.


What about increased vehicle movements?

Acumen have informed us that they are aware of the recent problems with traffic management on the business park and in response they have employed a traffic marshal to improve management of queuing vehicles. Please be aware that traffic management on public or private highways or roads is not within the Environment Agency’s remit and we have no enforcement powers that we can use in relation to this issue.

What is the white smoke coming from the site?

Acumen waste services Ltd have deployed several odour suppression units that are spraying fine mist of water that may look like smoke from far.

These units spray a scented mist into the air and can act to reduce or mask emissions of odour. The fragrance currently in use is ‘cotton fresh’ and is similar to laundry detergent. You may notice this smell during the waste removal period. You may also see the misting units in operation.

Why should I report odour to the incident hotline?

The reports we receive to our incident hotline are important in helping us assess the problem. Our staff will log the specific details of pollution that you are experiencing. If you are able to report incidences of odours immediately, this will help us respond. 

Although we are unable to attend in response to every call and cannot resolve this nuisance immediately, reported incidents are one way in which we assess how a site is performing and whether improvements are working. 

What is the Environment Agency trailer unit that is located on the business park?

This is one of our mobile monitoring facilities.  It is continually monitoring the methane and hydrogen sulphide in the air as surrogates (indicators) of odour.  We are doing this monitoring because we believe it will help us understand and demonstrate the level of odour impact.  

Why are they continuing to bring smelly waste on to site?

The receipt of fines waste has been voluntarily suspended by the operator and so the type of waste that is causing the odour issue is no longer being accepted by Acumen Waste Services Ltd.  Acumen Waste Services Ltd are continuing to accept street cleaning residues but these are not linked to the current odour issue.  There are also two other permits on land adjacent to the Acumen Waste Services Ltd site that are operated by a separate company, Escrick Environmental Services Ltd.  The waste associated with these permits is not thought to be contributing to the current odour issue either.  Waste may still be being imported by Escrick Environmental Services Ltd.  We understand the concern about the high number of vehicle movements but these are principally linked to the efforts being made to promptly remove the odorous material.  They are not indicative of more odorous material being deposited at the site.


Please note that the purpose of this page is to provide information on the issue. To report odour please contact our Incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60


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