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School of Geography

Research on Coastal Erosion at Historic Landfill Sites Highlighted on BBC

Professor of Environmental Geochemistry, Kate Spencer, and School of Geography Honorary Research Fellow, Dr James Brand shared their research on coastal erosion at historic landfill sites on this week's Countryfile


“We’ve studied eight landfills in detail in the Thames and we found that every single one of them is surrounded by a small halo of low level-pollution. When this waste was placed in landfills, we had very little understanding about sea levels, coastal erosion and climate change, this problem is going to get worse. We need to think about how we’re going to manage these sites now and for the next 50 years.” Professor Kate Spencer explained.

Dr James Brand presented the research he was conducting in the School of Geography's lab space: “Some of the samples [taken from the landfill site] were 70 times what would be considered a safe limit...I’ve found that if landfill waste ends up in salt water, rather than fresh water, it releases a lot more metals – anywhere from double to over 50 times greater amount released.” he said. “What is of concern is that these leachates are passing through all the ecological sites that surround these types of landfills, and it could be potentially very harmful." he added.

There are around 19,500 known landfills in England, 1,500 in wales, 58 in Northern Ireland and 217 in Scotland. Of those landfills more than 1,200 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are coastal. No figure has been central collated for Scotland, yet.

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