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Aberdeen City Council has completed a four year long, £16million environmental project to clean-up and restore the former Ness landfill site in Aberdeen.

This important restoration work has been completed by resource and recycling company, SITA UK, which was appointed by the Council to prevent the site from becoming an environmental hazard.

Ness landfill is just two kilometres south of Aberdeen city centre and occupies a former sand and gravel quarry. Approximately three million tonnes of waste from local homes and businesses had been deposited at the site over a period of 30 years.

Much of this waste had been deposited uncontained, leading to the pollution of groundwater and the local coastline. The site also suffered from the escape of odorous landfill gas and was in breach of its environmental obligations.

Following the signing of a wider 25-year waste management services contract in July 2000. Aberdeen City Council appointed SITA UK to clean up and restore the site.

A remediation plan, believed to be the single largest restoration project in Scotland, was developed in close liaison with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and put into place in 2009 following six years of extensive testing to monitor and assess the extent of pollution from the Council’s former facility.

Central to these works has been the installation of an impermeable cap to seal the site and prevent rainwater from percolating through the waste where it would pick up contaminants and pollute groundwater. This contaminated water is known as ‘leachate’ and systems have also been installed to collect existing leachate within the site, allowing levels to be controlled and pollution minimised.

The installation of a surface water collection and management system is also helping to control water flow on the 500,000 square metre site, to prevent flooding.

In addition, capping the site has controlled the escape of landfill gas. This gas is now being collected to determine whether it will be possible to use it to generate electricity.

Extensive landscaping works have also been undertaken to improve the visual aspect of the area by restoring it to open grassland and helping it blend in with the surrounding environment. Access improvements have been made on the publicly accessible parts of the site, which have fantastic views over the city and beyond. New paths have been constructed and a leaflet produced highlighting the history and ecology of the area.

“The condition of the former landfill site at Ness represented a real hazard,” said SITA UK Regional Engineering Manager, Edwin Farr. “Fortunately, we have been able to work closely with Aberdeen City Council, Fairhurst, a local environmental consultancy, and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency to address this. The systems we have installed along with the monitoring now in place, means that the site should no longer present a danger to the local environment.”

Councillor Neil Cooney, Convener of Housing and Environment at Aberdeen City Council said, “Aberdeen City Council has had to commit significant funds to address the legacy of landfill. Whilst we are proud of the outcome, a major project delivered on time and under budget, this site is a clear example of why we must move away from landfill. Leaving unknown environmental legacies for future generations should be a thing of the past and we urge everyone to play their part by recycling where they can and supporting our efforts to develop a combined heat and power facility to gain value rather than future costs from non-recyclable waste.”

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