- An analysis of UK’s historical landfills, built before tight regulations to reduce risk of contaminants escaping, revealed that 2,946 of them are in flood plains where those contaminants could wash away. 1,655 of these sites hold hazardous chemicals, asbestos, or other toxic materials, according Dr. Daren Gooddy of the British Geological Society (BGS).
- In addition to England and Wales, there are old landfills in Northern Ireland and Scotland that may present similar threats. Research done in the Southeast suggests "widespread pollution from historic landfills," said Dr. Kate Spencer of Queen Mary University of London to the Independent. Last year, the walls of a shutdown landfill eroded from waves, with about 200 meters of the tip exposed and asbestos, rusted metal, heavy plastics, bricks, and bags discovered at the bottom of the cliffs.
- An Environment Agency spokesperson said the agency will back research investigating impacts of flooding and erosion on coastal historic landfill sites. The research will be out of Queen Mary University, London.
Pollution in landfill leachate — such as metals, polychlorinated biphenyl compounds (PCBs), cadmium, and zinc among other highly toxic wastes that can leak from unlined or poorly line old landfills — is a public health and environmental concern; something for which the U.S. has monitored.
This newest research is alarming, said Friends of the Earth Campaigner Guy Shrubsole to the Independent. "Britain’s leaky landfills could turn out to be a toxic timebomb – and it’s clear that some are already leaching waste and chemicals into our watercourses."
Still there are unknowns regarding potential threats as there is limited information on the contents of UK’s 21,027 historic landfills.
"There are major gaps in our knowledge about historical landfills and huge uncertainty about the scale of contamination they have caused in water and on land," said Dr Gooddy to the Independent. "While it’s hard to say for sure, I would suggest that many of these legacy sites are vulnerable to flooding."