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Victory for 5-year-old against environment agency in human rights landfill case

Today the Court of Appeal will start to hear the appeal of the Environment Agency against the High Court’s judgment from September that the Agency is not currently complying with the law which requires it to protect the life of a 5-year-old disabled child, Mathew Richards, in Silverdale, Staffordshire.

The High Court accepted the evidence of Mathew’s consultant, Dr Ian Sinha, that current hydrogen sulphide levels from the Walleys Quarry Landfill Site were placing Mathew on a pathway to developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in adulthood, which will dramatically reduce his life expectancy. It concluded that, to protect Mathew’s human rights, there must be “real and significant change, as a matter of urgency”, and that levels of dangerous emissions must be brought below the level that can be smelled as soon as possible. The High Court also said that the levels of hydrogen sulphide must be reduced to a level less than an eighth of the level that can be smelled by January 2022.

Mathew and thousands of local residents who have been affected by the dangerous gases produced by the landfill hoped that the Environment Agency would heed the judgment of the Court and take immediate action to ‘Stop the Stink’. However, pollution from the site continues to blight the lives of the people of Silverdale and the surrounding area of Newcastle-under-Lyme.

Mathew’s mother, Rebecca Currie, explained in September that she was relieved by the judgment of the High Court because it gave her hope that Mathew would be able to breathe clean air and allow his lungs to develop properly. She now describes her reaction to the Agency’s decision to appeal:

“I was so happy when the Court recognised that what our community has been experiencing should not be happening and that action was needed to stop the pollution that is likely to shorten my son’s life. I am left speechless by the EA’s decision to spend time and money on an appeal to the Court of Appeal instead of rolling up their sleeves and making sure that the problem is fixed once and for all. I find it really hard to understand why they are appealing when they don’t dispute the judge’s findings about the risk to Mathew’s life. The sad truth is that the Environment Agency’s response to the hydrogen sulphide pollution has been too little and too slow. It feels as though the EA do not even think that there is a continuing problem: but we are still being poisoned and even the EA’s own data shows this. I hope that the Court of Appeal give this technical legal appeal short shrift and that finally the EA will act to make our air safe to breathe. In the meantime whatever happens in Court this week, the fact remains that the stink has not stopped and that I am having to prepare to take further legal action”

Mathew’s solicitor, Rebekah Carrier of Hopkin Murray Beskine comments:

“I know that the other residents in Silverdale will echo Mathew’s family’s sentiments. The Environment Agency should have taken action to ensure that the reductions in emissions specified by the High Court happened in the timescale the High Court required. Instead they are spending time and money on an appeal. Whatever the Agency and the Quarry’s publicity may suggest, their own data demonstrates that they have not reduced the emissions in the way the Court told them to. In addition I have seen data from other sources which suggests that the level of emissions inside homes and other buildings is exponentially higher than the levels being recorded by the EA’s outdoor monitoring stations. This is obviously of very great concern. Nothing we have seen gives any confidence the problem with the quarry will be dealt with effectively.”

Published On: September 16, 2021|

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