A BLACKBURN landfill operator has come under fire after it announced it was struggling to meet Environment Agency deadlines to reduce smells coming from a site.

Quercia Limited were served an enforcement notice and were given a deadline of March 19 to cover the site and install additional gas control measures but they insisted work on-site in Clayton-le-Woods was 85 per cent complete. The Blackburn firm has told the agency that there is a risk it may not complete the work.

A statement by the Environment Agency said: “This is primarily because of the difficult weather conditions over the last couple of weeks. The company has told the Environment Agency that they expect the work will now be completed by March 26.

Lancashire County Council is worried about the news as Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, director of public health and wellbeing, said: “We are extremely concerned that Quercia may not be able to finish the capping work at Clayton Hall landfill site within the deadline given to them by the Environment Agency.

“We understand how frustrated local residents and businesses are with the situation and they have had to put up with this odour issue for too long. Our primary concern remains protecting the wellbeing of people living close to the landfill. Given this issue is going on for the last three months, I have asked Public Health England to review the evidence base to assess the ongoing risks to public health.”

In response to ongoing concerns from residents that the height of the landfill is too high, the county council has also commissioned its own survey.

The survey confirmed that the highest part of the site is at or below approved pre-settlement levels. On this basis there is no breach of planning control.

The odour issue is not controlled by the planning permissions for the site but is controlled under the provisions of the Environmental Permit that is regulated by the Environment Agency.

Cllr Alistair Bradley, leader of Chorley Council, said: “This is completely unacceptable and we feel we have no option now but to write immediately to the Secretary of State and ask him to intervene.

“Just a couple of weeks ago Quercia publicly declared that they were well on track to beat the March 19 deadline. While I appreciate we have had some bad weather this has been going on for months and seems to be just another excuse. What they’ve demonstrated to us, by not being able to do what they said they were going to do, is that they are unfit to operate the tip.”

A spokesman for Quercia said: “We have continued to work through the difficult weather conditions that we have experienced recently and we estimate the capping is now 85 per cent complete.

“We are also extending the capping area to achieve a seal to a wider area, which should improve landfill gas control and surface water collection. We would like to assure the community that we are advancing as quickly as we can, with resources being mobilised from other parts of the site when weather conditions allow.”