Twenty six coastal councils in England have landfill sites spilling large amounts of waste onto cliffs and beaches, a new survey has found.
The research revealed hundreds of ageing landfill dumps on the coast of England contain plastics, chemicals and other waste which is a “ticking timebomb” threatening to leach pollution on beaches and into the sea.
The councils that responded to the survey, conducted by the Local Government Association coastal special interest group (LGA Coastal SIG) in collaboration with the coastal group network, identified 195 coastal landfill sites as being at risk of tidal flooding and erosion.
It is thought there are approximately 1,200 to 1,400 historical coastal waste dumps in the UK currently at risk of erosion and flooding, according to the LGA Coastal SIG.
More than three-quarters of the landfill dumps were identified as being adjacent to designated environmentally protected areas.
Some of the waste sites date back 100 years with little known about what has been dumped in them. Affected councils are calling on the government to investigate what these sites contain and tackle the threat.
‘Overwhelmed by the scale of the problem’
Mark Stratton, officer lead for coastal landfill at the group, said that there are currently “hundreds of coastal landfill sites at risk of tidal flooding and erosion.”
He said: “During visits to sites, I have been overwhelmed by the scale of the problem, especially the threat of waste eroding or leaching out onto the often-designated natural coastal environment.
“The landfill sites have been inherited by councils, and stretch from the north to the south of England.”
The councils are asking for government help to tackle the threat by shoring up the dumps to stop the leaching of pollution from sites that are already eroding or being flooded. Councils are also reaching out to the government to carry out an investigation into what the sites contain.
‘Our coastlines need urgent support’
David Renard, LGA environment spokesperson, said funding is needed to “prevent hundreds of disasters on our shores” otherwise the “problem will not go away.”
He said: “Our coastlines need urgent support. Councils want to protect their local environments but need urgent support from the government to save our coastlines from this ticking timebomb.”
A spokesperson from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “We are committed to working closely with local authorities, who have the responsibility of ensuring historic landfill sites are managed in a consistent and environmentally friendly way.
“Findings from the LGA survey will help inform our planned national assessment on the impacts of coastal erosion and flooding at historic coastal landfill sites, which will help improve management of these sites in the future.”