Westmill II landfill is a non-hazardous landfill site operated by Biffa, located in an operating quarry and close to local residents.
This page was updated on 5 March 2013.
Landfill hot spot incident
In August 2012, Biffa identified a hot spot within the waste in cell 4, which is located towards the centre of the landfill. A hot spot is as an area of the landfill where the temperature of the waste has increased to the point where it could catch fire. To prevent this, Biffa need to exclude air from the waste and cool the area. We are working with Biffa to prevent the hot spot from spreading.
Biffa agreed to temporarily cap the cell with soil to prevent odours caused by tipping waste during the summer months. Because the surface of the waste in cell 4 is only covered in soils, it is very difficult to effectively seal in the gas. Biffa have reduced the rate at which they extract landfill gas, in order to prevent oxygen being pulled in and to stop hot gases moving through the waste. This has resulted in landfill gas escaping from the site, causing unpleasant odours in nearby residential areas (usually at night).
Biffa have also been importing additional soils to increase the surface seal of the waste, and capping the sides with heavy-duty plastic sheeting. Unfortunately this has not been as effective as we had hoped, and we have advised Biffa to cap the whole cell with welded plastic sheeting. This will be far more effective in sealing the gas in and keeping the air out. Biffa will start this work shortly, with most of the heavy engineering work taking place during the last two weeks in March. We expect a steady improvement in the situation until the work is fully completed in April.
Please be reassured that a hot spot developing within the waste mass is very common in landfill sites and does not pose any risk to local residents. We will continue to monitor the situation and inspect the site to ensure Biffa are taking all action possible. We want to make sure that the impact this has on local residents is minimal.
Biffa's application to introduce a soil recycling facility
Biffa has applied to us to vary its environmental permit by introducing a soil recycling facility at Westmill. (This is separate from Biffa's application to increase the amount of waste.) The soil recycling facility will convert contaminated soils into cleaner, reusable soils. Biffa will use these soils on site as restoration and daily waste cover material.
At the moment we are satisfied that the introduction of a Soil Repair Centre will not pose any significant harm to the environment or to human health, and we see no reason why we cannot issue a permit variation. We are considering approving the application and have produced a draft Variation Notice with a document explaining our decision.
Have your say - public consultation
Before we finalise our decision, we are asking other organisations and the general public for their comments on Biffa’s draft Variation Notice and our Decision Document. We want to explain how we have made our draft decision, and make sure we haven’t missed any information crucial to us reaching the right conclusion.
The consultation period has now begun.
You can also view a copy of our draft Decision Document and Biffa’s draft Variation Notice without charge at the following places. Before you travel, please call your chosen venue to ensure the application is currently available to view:
The Environment Agency
2 Bishop Square Business Park
St Albans Road West
Hatfield, AL10 9EX
Tel. 01707 632404
87 High Street
Ware, SG12 9AD
Tel. 0300 123 4049 (select option 2 and ask for Ware Library)
East Hertfordshire Council
If you would like a complete copy of these and related documents, but are unable to visit the above venues, please contact Louise Chalcraft (External Relations Officer) by telephone on 01707 632511 or email:
Submitting your comments
We would like your comments on whether we have missed any significant issues regarding the operation of the soil treatment facility that may have an impact on the environment or the wellbeing of local residents and communities. This may include:
- the types and quantity of waste accepted at the soil repair centre
- potential environmental impacts, for example air quality or water quality
- odours, noise (specifically from site operations) or similar amenity issues
- environmental monitoring
Please send your comments about Biffa’s Variation Notice and our draft Decision Document to:
- PSC team - please quote application number EPR/DP3431PC/V006
or write to (quoting application number EPR/DP3431PC/V006):
PSC - EP Team
99 Parkway Avenue
Parkway Business Park
We normally place all comments on our public register. If you do not want your comments to appear on the public register, please say so.
Biffa's application to increase the amount of waste
Biffa has applied to us to vary its environmental permit by increasing the amount of waste accepted at the site. This is separate from Biffa's application to introduce a soil recycling facility.
At the beginning of 2012, Biffa told us the waste is settling more than they originally predicted. Because of this, they have asked to raise the level to which waste is tipped before the site closes. The additional waste will be placed in all areas of the landfill that have not yet been filled and capped.
Capped areas will be topped up with inert material (soil and rubble) and existing caps will not be removed. Biffa want to ensure gas is extracted efficiently and that water runs off the surface, avoiding leachate building up in the landfill.
Biffa’s environmental permit, and any applications they make to vary it, do not affect the dates for ending landfill or restoring the site. These dates are set by Hertfordshire County Council.
We ran a public consultation on this application, which closed on 12 July 2012. We are still assessing Biffa's application, and have recently asked for additional information, which we need before we can make a decision.
History of the site
We started to receive complaints about unpleasant odours soon after Westmill II landfill landfill began to accept waste in 2004. We prosecuted Biffa in 2005 for breaching their permit conditions relating to off-site odour.
The initial county court judgement stated that the odour condition in the permit was unlawful. We successfully appealed against this. In November 2007, following a complex and lengthy legal process, Biffa was found guilty on four counts of breaching its permit and was fined £20,000 plus costs of £12,500.
We continued to respond to complaints and confirmed the emission of fresh waste odours from the landfill on numerous occasions. This led to a compliance rating (on an A to F downwards scale) of band E for four years from 2006 to 2009. The number of complaints reached a peak of 288 reported incidents during 2008.
We have been working with Biffa and local residents and their representatives, through local liaison meetings, to secure improvements to site operations and infrastructure. These meetings have proved to be a very useful way of sharing information and identifying problems.
As a result of these meetings, Biffa has introduced several odour-control measures, such as de-odourising sprays and wind deflectors. Improvements at the site have significantly reduced the number of odour complaints, and the site’s compliance rating for 2010 improved to band B. Feedback from residents also suggests that the odour situation has improved.
Report a pollution incident
To report a pollution incident from Westmill landfill (for example, unpleasant odours), please call our 24-hour Incident Hotline on 0800 80 70 60.
More information about waste sites and Westmill