The Environment Agency (EA) has covered tens of thousands of square meters of “exposed waste” at Pilsworth South Landfill amid complaints of the “nauseating smell".

The EA was called to a meeting with Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham on Wednesday to discuss ongoing concerns over the "vile stench" of the landfill, which can be smelt in parts of Bury and Rochdale.

Both the EA and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) say they are monitoring the situation at the landfill, located at Pilsworth Quarry.

The EA say more than 90,000sq/m of waste has been covered since its involvement to prevent odours from leaking to the site.

The mayor said he was "taken aback" by the smell at a visit to the site in February, and has now asked the UKHSA to carry out urgent investigations into health risks.

Posting on X, formerly Twitter, on Thursday, he added: “Following yesterday’s meeting (Wednesday, March 13) with the I am this morning asking the UK Health Security Agency to carry out urgent on-site investigations into the level of health risk posed to local residents by these toxic emissions.”

More than 3,800 people have now signed a petition calling for an investigation into the smell at the landfill. Last year, Bury councillors heard that complaints to the EA from residents about the site had risen from 100 to 400.

Bury Times: The entrance to the Pilsworth South landfill siteThe entrance to the Pilsworth South landfill site (Image: Google)

An EA spokesperson said its officers are continuing to attend the Pilsworth site, increasing regulatory inspections and working closely with partners to improve the situation for local communities.

The spokesperson added: “Since our intervention 90,000 square metres of previously exposed waste has been covered, as well as 80 per cent of the operational area, to prevent odours escaping from the site.

“Members of the public can continue to report odour to our 24/7 incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.”

Residents say the smell is preventing them from using their back gardens, or from opening windows at their homes.

One resident, from Heywood, who did not want to be named, compared the odour to “a cross between bad eggs and rotting veg” and said it reminded her of “sewage".

The 52 year-old resident, who lives on the Copperwells estate, said: “The first time I noticed it was in December 2022, the first time I reported it was in October 2023.

“It really is nauseating, you don’t know what you’re breathing in, that is the worry of residents.

“You couldn’t open a window, I wouldn’t want to put my washing out, I don’t want to put bedding out as I’m concerned, I don’t know if the smell is going to transfer."

The resident said the smell comes and goes, but is especially bad during winter months and in the early hours of the morning.

"When the odours are at their strongest, she said she can’t go in the garden.

“I want to go out and get a bit of fresh air but I can’t,” she added.

On Wednesday, Valencia, the company which operates the landfill, said it was conducting engineering works to extract gas from a newly covered area.

It confirmed that the site remains close and would not be accepting any further waste.

A spokesperson, writing on the Pilsworth South Landfill Facebook page added: “Weather permitting, we anticipate that the drilling and connection of the remaining gas extraction wells will be completed within the next seven days. These are labour intensive and complex works.”

Bury Times: A bulldozer at the siteA bulldozer at the site

Dr Merav Kliner, deputy director from UKHSA North West, said such landfill issues are known to cause “short-term health effects” including irritation to the eyes, nose and throat and that those with pre-existing health conditions are “more susceptible.”

Dr Kilner said: “These [health effects] should pass quickly and without any longer-term impact.

"Individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions may be more susceptible to these effects.

“We understand how unpleasant the situation at Pilsworth landfill is for local people.

“UKHSA’s role is to provide public health advice to the Environment Agency and local authority to help them inform the local community about any risk.

“We will make an assessment of Pilsworth following receipt of Environment Agency monitoring data.

“Any risk to long-term physical health is likely to be small, but cannot be completely excluded.

“We will continue to provide advice to the Environment Agency and support the local authorities with their response to this situation.”