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Friday, 17 August, 2001, 07:56 GMT 08:56 UK
Living in the shadow of a landfill
Nantygwyddon landfill site
Nantygwyddon landfill site has come under fire from residents
Harriet Medlicott was born six years ago with a deformed windpipe and she has had to undergo three major operations.

She suffers from pneumonia and needs regular medication and constant care from her family.

Harriet Mendiott and mother
Harriet Mendicott is recovering from a major operation
Her mother Natalie, from Gelli, Rhondda, south Wales, she had been told at the time of Harriet's birth that she had been born with a rare defect.

Then two years later, another child in the same village - which is just a mile from the Nantygwyddon landfill site - was diagnosed with the same rare condition.

The landfill operation is currently under investigation by the Welsh Assembly, amid concerns from villagers about hazardous substances tipped at the site.

Mrs Medlicott said she had spoken with the parents of other children with birth defects in the area, some with the rare condition of gastroschisis, where the intestines are outside the stomach.

I have spoken to people in this area and there are a lot of birth defects. The council is saying it is not the tip - I want proof.

Natalie Medlicott, parent

She welcomed the government's report linking landfill sites with some health problems and "minor" birth defects.

"It shows that we were right all along," said Mrs Medlicott.

"It is nice to get acknowledgement for the facts.

"When Harriet was born, we were told it was one of those things. Two years later to the month there was another one born in Gelli. The condition is very rare and now there are two children with it.

"But nobody knows the cause. Nobody can say it is not the tip.
Garrod Owen, Rant
Garrod Owen: Public inquiry needed

"I have spoken to people in this area and there are a lot of birth defects, the council is saying it is not the tip. I want proof, if that is the case."

Mrs Medlicott added: "I am very disappointed that Nantygwyddon has not closed, because if there is the slightest doubt, it should be closed until an investigation is carried out."

Garrod Owen, from the pressure group Rant (Rhondda Against Nantygwyddon Tip), said he was concerned the government would fail to act on its own findings.

The announcement this week of an inquiry into the Camelford water poisoning disaster in Cornwall in the early Nineties was typical of the time lag between accident and action, said Mr Owen.

We have had horrific interviews involving the people that were affected

Garrod Owen, Rant pressure group

"The news came only this week of the episode in Cornwall. Just check back into history and see what the government said about that 10 years ago. Only now are they considering a full inquiry.

"We also want a public inquiry, which will give the power of subpoena. We know there were 37 people that had some involvement in one form or other with the formation and running in the early days of Nantygwyddon.

"Eighty-two percent of them have not turned up to give evidence for one reason or other.

He added: "We are coming to the end of an investigation by the Welsh Assembly and we have had horrific interviews involving the people that were affected, I would certainly not consider them to be minor.

"Plaid Cymru gave an undertaking before they were elected to close the tip, but that is not the end of it. There are many other things that need doing."

Rhondda Cynon Taff declined to comment on Nantygwyddon but said it "welcomed the release of the scientific research into the health impact of hazardous waste landfill sites throughout the UK".

A council spokesman said details of the Welsh Assembly's investigation were awaited and guidance would be sought on hazardous waste storage at landfill sites.

See also:

28 Aug 00 | Scotland
Villagers dig in over waste store
16 Jul 01 | Scotland
New waste law sparks concern
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