By Owen Xu Li
Toxic waste, including mustard gas, is buried in Wales’ over 1,500 abandoned landfill sites.
The 1,572 sites have been dubbed “ticking time bombs” by Greenpeace.
According to data from Natural Resources Wales (NRW), hundreds of sites contain radioactive waste, with just a few dozen being lined.
The organization stated that it collaborated with local governments to ensure that old landfills did not pose a pollution danger.
Its results exposed landfill underneath houses, recreation facilities, hospitals, parkland, and waterways.
Dr. Paul Johnston of Greenpeace’s Exeter University research team said all of these dump sites are ticking time bombs.
He added that there are a wide range of issues out there, from asbestos and PCBs to radioactive content, as well as more modern contaminants like PFOA and pesticide waste discarded in a multitude of areas.
PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) were outlawed in 1986 after being used as transformer and capacitor cooling and insulating fluids since the 1920s.
When burnt, they emit highly toxic dioxins, one of which was used in the 2004 assassination attempt on Ukrainian leader Viktor Yushchenko.
Teflon is made of PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, which has been attributed to cancer and birth defects.
At Buckley, Flintshire, the evidence shows low-level nuclear waste. There are cyanide barrels at Cwmrhys quarry in Lampeter, and land in Bagillt, Flintshire, is said to be contaminated with arsenic.
According to the records, landfill gas was in explosive concentration near Furnace, Ceredigion, in 1989, but it was considered a minimal risk.
“PFA sludge” is registered in Nash, Newport.
Chemicals known as PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) have been related to problems such as liver injury, vaccination tolerance, and fertility concerns.
PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) are said to be buried in Caerphilly.
Body, lung, bladder, liver, and stomach tumors have also been related to these chemicals.
Dr. Johnston said that with the climate crisis causing further floods and coastal destruction in the UK, some of these sites are at much greater risk of spilling their radioactive contents.
Chemicals could spill if older landfills were not lined until waste was dumped. According to reports, even new lined landfills would inevitably leak.
Professor Kate Spencer of Queen Mary University of London described landfill as a massive challenge that required significant government spending.
“We can’t possibly just remove all that waste.”
Prof. Spencer needed to know how places could be washed up or repurposed, and if material from them could be recycled.
Mike Brown, the managing director of environmental consulting company Eunomia, served 20 years as a landfill operator.
He said that we are not hearing of them killing fish, adding that the vast majority of places have been washed through over the decades.
Brown said that most of the landfills will not be a problem, but that they will cost billions of pounds to move, and there is no prospect of moving them.
In the current state, it is unclear how much waste is in each landfill. But it would nevertheless be extremely expensive to move them. For example, a landfill with 200,000 tonnes of waste would cost about 40 million pounds to move, adding more cost if the waste is hazardous.
The Welsh Local Government said that because environmental practices, such as recycling, have become more popular, landfill use has declined. Now, most landfills are privately owned.