Grangemoor park old landfill
Grangemoor Park | Photo by Rowenna Hoskin

Almost £300,000 spent but leak continues to pollute River Ely and Cardiff Bay

Grangemoor Park is closed for 12 weeks to enable more work to be carried out 

ALMOST £300,000 has been spent by Cardiff Council to find and fix a landfill leak which is polluting the River Ely and Cardiff Bay.

The amount spent was revealed in a Freedom of Information request submitted by The Cardiffian , which also acknowledged that the leak still hasn’t stopped.

The landfill on Ferry Road beneath Grangemoor Park has been leaking into the River Ely and Cardiff Bay since at least 2017, and residents and park users have been regularly reporting incidents to the council.

In February 2021, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) sent the council a report stating that they must act to prevent any further damage being caused to the environment.

A year and £285,352 later, the leak continues despite the council’s efforts and the park has been closed for 12 weeks while further investigations take place.

“They haven’t provided any information about what they are doing so residents and park users are in the dark,” said Fiona McAllister, organiser of the Keep Grangetown Tidy group.

“Obviously they need to spend and do whatever is necessary to put this right and stop the pollution, but it would be good if they considered park users while they are doing that.”

The old landfill on Ferry Road took in four million tonnes of rubbish before it was closed in 1994. The site was formerly owned by the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, which was decommissioned in 2000, before it was handed over to the council.

Grangemoor Park now covers the old landfill but as the rubbish rots it generates methane gas and a toxic liquid called leachate. 

Rubbish pile | by Tom Fisk via Pexels
Rubbish pile | by Tom Fisk via Pexels

This pollution began to leak into the River Ely and Cardiff Bay due to a fault in the pumping system which operators were unaware of.

The NRW have been monitoring the site since 2018. In March 2021 they found the council to be non-compliant for lack of proper management and infrastructural faults.

These failures were recorded in the report as “having the potential to have a significant impact or effect on the environment, people, and/or properties”. 

In the most recent NRW report, the council were found to be fully compliant, with the necessary works either completed or in progress.  

Despite this, the leak continues. Surveys have found that drainage improvements to the leachate pumping station, which is meant to take the pollution to a treatment centre, were also needed.

“When the leachate collector – a pipe around a gravel pit around the site – was dug up, there were design issues with how the leachate was flowing, so the systems had to be improved before the leachate can be pumped off site for treatment,” said a spokesperson from Cardiff Council.

Monitoring centre in Grangemoor Park | By Rowenna Hoskin
A monitoring point in Grangemoor Park | By Rowenna Hoskin

A report by the NRW from December 2021 used CCTV to survey the surface water pipe running between the Ferry Road Aldi car park to the landfill site.  

This survey identified a concrete bung at the end of the leachate collection pipe, believed to be part of an old sewage system.

The landfill’s operator proposed uncovering this to check the bung’s integrity. In addition to this, the deep leachate pump and 18 chambers are currently being refurbished.  

NRW said: “We have been in discussion with Cardiff Council to ensure that the necessary works are undertaken so that the landfill is operated as designed and pollution managed correctly. 

“We are continuing to review the operations to ensure the conditions set out in the permit to protect people and the environment are complied with.” 

The park closed on Monday 31 January to enable heavy machinery to operate. It will remain closed for a minimum of 12 weeks.  

“We understand that remedial works are needed but think that residents deserve to be given more notice and more information about what’s going on,” said Ms McAllister.

The UK Government Health Protection Agency report said: “A wide range of substances may potentially be present in leachate, some of which are potentially harmful to human health.”