Air Pollution

2014 update: Please note that this page, along with many on the site was originally written in 2009 and some of the effects of the landfill have changed in that time. RATS have decided to leave it as it is though as an archived record of what the people of Houghton-le-Spring have suffered over the years.

Air Pollution

Landfill gases, particularly Carbon Dioxide and Methane have been produced by the site and escaping into the air since the site was first used. This was in small quantities in the beginning, but as the trip has filled up, it’s been in increasing amounts. Landfill gases are formed when the waste decomposes.

Gas monitoring boreholes are positioned all around the edge of the tip to measure whether gas is escaping through the liner (this is the liner which is supposed to stop contaminated water leaking out!)

Biffa installed a gas flare and later, gas engines, but these systems have a limited effect on the gases they capture and the boreholes frequently show escapes of Carbon Dioxide and Methane which break the limits allowed in the site operating permit.

Biffa added more boreholes outside the liner in an attempt to “suck up” the escaping gas. This solution is not highlighted in the permit and it hasn’t prevented gas being recorded in high percentages. Carbon dioxide is not allowed at over 1.5% and Methane at 1%. Methane is also explosive in the atmosphere in percentages of 3-15. Carbon dioxide displaces oxygen and the air is not breathable with less than 20% oxygen.


The EA doesn’t appear to have carried out any actions to force Biffa to stick to its permit conditions with regards to the gas. Biffa make up ridiculous excuses – such as claiming that the carbon dioxide is coming from animals breathing. The EA does nothing. The fact that the Carbon Dioxide is occurring deep in the rocks where it’s impossible for animals to be present appears to have escaped their reasoning.

The EA have also said that the Carbon Dioxide must be coming from the Magnesian Limestone rocks that surround the tip. This is chemically impossible, and even if it was, why would it be coming from the rocks that surround the tip when it doesn’t come from any others?

The monitoring data from the first three months of 2010 paints an alarming picture of the present gas escapes from the tip. Biffa only occasionally extracts more than 40% of the gas and sometimes the extraction system fails all together.

The data produced is similarly alarming. Carbon Dioxide figures rise as high as 18.3% with a corresponding low of 2.4% Oxygen. Carbon Dioxide should be at no more than 1% and Oxygen at at least 20%. Many of the readings from 2009 are even worse!

On 27 January 2010, two of the boreholes recorded Methane emissions of 7.9% and 8.8%. Both of these percentages are highly explosive.


There is no sign of any action having been taken by either Biffa or the EA with regards to any of the above.