Ground Water

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.

Pollution of Groundwater

Leakage of toxic substances into the groundwater is recorded by water monitoring boreholes which are all around the site. Leakages have been recorded in the boreholes almost throughout the life of the tip. When the site is lined like the picture below shows, is there any wonder that this is happening?














To stop pollution appearing in the boreholes, Biffa pumped water out of the aquifer to flush out the boreholes, with the toxic substances being flushed into the sewer system. This of course didn't stop the problem. All that it was doing was clearing out the boreholes so that Biffa wouldn't face prosecution (it's illegal under UK and European law to pollute groundwater.) Toxins must still be leaking into the groundwater as Biffa continue to pump water from the aquifers, more than 10 million litres to date at no cost to them! and we are told we face a water shortage in England.

Chloride has long shown up in certain boreholes. Biffa initially attempted to blame this on salt from the A690, something that the EA were very quick to accept without any investigation. It was only after pressure from RATS that they looked into it further and admitted that the A690 wasn’t the source of the chloride pollution.


The upper limit for chloride in the groundwater is 250 milligrams per litre. That’s 250 parts per million.

In January, February and March 2010, borehole B2 recorded up to 488 mg/l - almost twice the permitted levels.


Also in March 2010, borehole L2 records an Ammoniacal Nitrogen reading of 1.21 mg/l and borehole M1 records 1.71 mg/l. Both these readings break the site reporting limit of 0.9 mg/l.

Low PH Values

Low PHs are being recorded shwing that certain water samples have been acidic. Water samples from the site should be reading at about PH7, which is neutral, but are sometimes on the slightly alkaline side at PH8. In the past, there was an instance of PH13 being recorded which was a dangerously high alkaline level equivalent to that of household bleach. In January, February and March 2010, however, there have been acidic readings with borehole A2 recording a PH of 4.2 and borehole H2 recording 5.7. This is a clear sign of acid pollution leaking into the rocks.

Electrical Conductivity

Some extremely high electrical conductivity figures have been recorded in the first quarter of 2010. Water conductivity is measured using a unit called microSiemens. High levels of electrical conductivity indicate the presence of metals in the water. The Drinking Water Standards for electrical conductivity are 1350 microSiemens.

In January 2010, some of the boreholes around the site were recording values as high as 10,500 microSiemens - almost eight times the permitted levels!

Surface Water

The surface water records demonstrate that these water sources, which are continuous with the groundwater, are also being polluted. The Grasswell Burn, which is close to the site continues to record high levels of Chloride and Electrical Conductivity. The groundwater pond within the quarry records high levels of Ammoniacal Nitrogen at 4.3 mg/l as opposed to a drinking water standard of 0.39 mg/l. The permit compliance is 2.0 mg/l.


Below are some pictures and comments. From these, are you suprised that there's so much pollution in the water?















This is a picture of the pond inside the quarry.














Here, Biffa are digging into the aquifer water.













Tipping into water on an unlined floor.





















Tipping next to aquifer water. RATS have been told that this is NOT aquifer water and that it's just collected rain water. That must have been quite a downpour! Look at the deep water lifebelt stationed on the right!

EA emails from experts obtained by RATS under Freedom of Information confirm that this is indeed ground water.

In 2013, Biffa were fined over £100,000 for polluting the groundwater.