Just a few weeks ago the Skelmersdale community were left disappointed when their appeal for a judicial review over the expansion of Whitemoss Hazardous Waste Landfill was turned down by the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
The campaign, led by the voluntary organisation ARROW, remains in litigation subject to an appeal, with hopes that they decision will be overturned down the line in the future. But what is the issue here and why is it so important to the community of Skelmersdale that this expansion is brought to a halt?
It all boils down to the protection of people’s health and the impact that such sites can have on those people who not only work on these sites, but the people who live in the surrounding areas. Landfill sites, such as Whitemoss, have a history of releasing toxic dust and gases, which are untraceable to the human eye and with most of the nearby residential areas being located within just three kilometres of the site, there is a genuine concern about these toxic gases and dust travelling into the air that we breathe.
This is supported by studies that have show how other hazardous landfill sites have causes ill health to people who live within the three kilometres. This fact on its own, gives ARROW and the people of Skelmersdale a case to be concerned.
As a personal injury firm, we handle a lot of cases that involve workers being exposed for prolonged periods of time to hazardous substances, so we understand as much as anyone, the heartache that the aftermath can bring upon victims and their families.
It can leave people requiring lifelong care and attention and in many cases the diseases that can be contracted from chemical exposure have fatal consequences. The worst thing is that in a lot of cases where chemical exposure causes ill health, the symptoms are long lasting, which causes the maximum amount of suffering for all involved.
If Whitemoss is allowed to continue with their planned expansion, then many residents, including many of our own employees, could be forced to live local to the site and be exposed to the toxic dust and gases for most of their lives.
What are the reported Health Impacts?
Over the years that has been extensive research into the situation of hazardous waste landfill sites, like Whitemoss and the residential areas surrounding them, to try and prove a direct correlation between the two.
Many of these reviews have speculated that in relation to landfill sites being located close to residential areas, the risk for deteriorating and adverse health has increased and the number of people suffering from birth defects and certain types of cancer has been reported to occur at an increased level.
One such report, carried out by Lesley Rushton, MRC Institute for Environmental and Health, details the impact of the Love Canal site in New York, USA. The report states that due to large quantities of hazardous substances, including pesticide residues, being deposited on the site in the 1930/40s, followed by the building of civilian settlement areas in the 1970’s, many of the residents have been adversely affected by the chemicals from the landfill leaking into the local sewers, soil and even the air surrounding the houses.
One of the most harrowing impacts, believed to be attributed to hazardous waste, are reproductive and birth disorders. The birth of a child should be a sacred and beautiful moment in life. It should be solely be about the joy of life.
Yet studies have consistently suggested that living close to a hazardous waste landfill site, can threaten these moments and cause new born children great distress and disorder that will stay with the for the rest of their lives.
Reports by author NJ Vianna and AK Polan, which are also supported by other reports, found evidence of an increase of low birth weight among new-born babies around the Love Canal site in New York. According to Rushton’s report, similar increases were detected within a radius of one kilometre of the Lipari Landfill in New Jersey.
It is not only birth defects that have seen reported increases in the areas surrounding these sites. Cancer has also been found to exist in increased frequency in the areas surrounding hazardous waste landfill, particularly for gastrointestinal, oesophageal, stomach, colon and rectal cancers. The biggest problem that researchers have had with trying to prove a direct correlation is a lack of measurement of exposure.
In the UK, one of the biggest and most controversial cases against hazardous waste landfill sites was the tragic death of seven year old Zane Gbangbola. On the 8th February 2014, Zane and his mother and father were all taken ill, with the seven year old and his father, suffering from cardiac arrest. Sadly Zane did not make it and to this day his father remains paralysed from the waste down.
Upon investigation by the fire services at the site, hydrogen cyanide was detected and medical tests displayed traces of the harmful substance in the family’s blood.
Hydrogen Cyanide is just one of the harmful chemicals associated with hazardous waste landfill sites and sure enough, just north to the Gbangbola’s home, there was a site that was formerly used as an uncontrolled waste dump.
The family are now campaigning for justice for Zane as it is believed that due to the mass flooding which took place around the same time in around the Thames region, the landfill became saturated by rising water levels and as a result, toxic gases, most notably Hydrogen Cyanide were carried into Zane Gbangbola’s home and eventually would overcome him.
This tragedy could happen anywhere to anyone located near these sites, which is why the people of Skelmersdale are so determined to avoid running the health risks attached to hazardous waste landfill sites.
It is the reason it is so important that if you live locally to the area that you get behind and support ARROW with their campaign to bring the plans for expansion to a halt and is the reason Scott Rees and Co have thrown our support behind the campaign.
The personal injury risks from such sites are very real and with further research into the link between these sites and deteriorating health, ever ongoing, it will not be long before more cases arise because of the devastating aftereffects of chemical exposure.
It is not too late to make a difference. If you are local to Skelmersdale or even if you feel strongly about the development of these sites, you can still donate towards the legal challenge against the expansion of the Whitemoss hazardous waste landfill site by visiting ARROW’s website.
You can also keep up to date with their campaign by liking their Facebook page, No Whitemoss Landfill – Skelmersdale.