Officials warn of putrefying piles of rubbish after no-deal Brexit
1st February 2019 | Recycling
Government officials are preparing to deal with “putrefying stockpiles” of rubbish in the event of a no-deal Brexit, according to documents leaked to the Guardian. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 29 March, export licences for millions of tonnes of waste will become invalid overnight. Environment Agency (EA) officials said leaking stockpiles could cause pollution.
The EA is also concerned that if farmers cannot export beef and lamb, a backlog of livestock on farms could cause liquid manure stores to overflow. A senior MP said the problems could cause a public health and environmental pollution emergency. An EA source said, “It could all get very ugly, very quickly”. The emails leaked to the Guardian were sent to EA staff, asking for 42 volunteers to staff crisis management centres that would deal with incidents. On Tuesday the chief executive of the civil service revealed plans to move up to 5,000 staff into an emergency command and control centre in the event of no deal.
An EA email sent on Thursday, labelled “importance: high”, said crisis centres could go live on 18 February and run from 7am to 8pm seven days a week, with plans to operate 24/7 if needed. To explain the potential tasks, the email gave two examples. “If there is a no-deal scenario, the current export of waste may cease for a period. This could result in stockpiled waste which causes licence breaches,” the email said. “Odours will obviously be an issue as the stockpiled waste putrefies and there may be runoff leachates, causing secondary pollution.”
The email said the waste could become a high-profile issue. “It will quickly escalate into a political one because the operators will state that they have no means to move the waste.”
The second example related to animal slurry. “Problems may arise in exporting livestock to the EU. In that situation, farmers may be overstocked and unable to export lamb/ beef etc. That means that they may have problems with slurry storage capacity and insufficient land spreading capability.”
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