AN investigation is underway at a County Durham landfill site after one of its neighbours raised concerns about the impact it may be having on his health.

Retired prison officer Gary Firth, from Kelloe, raised the issue with the managers of Joint Stocks Landfill, after starting to experience breathing problems earlier this year.

The former professional cyclist, who is 54, started having problems in March and has to take daily inhalers.

He said: "I went to the see the doctor and she basically said it's something you're inhaling which is what made me think of the tip. I've been on antibiotics but it's gradually getting worse.

"This time last year I was going out on my bike but I tried a couple of months ago and I just couldn't breathe. I had to stop after 20 minutes."

Durham County Council, which manages the site, which was formerly operated by Premier Waste, has called in the Environment Agency to look into the matter.

The Northern Echo: Gas levels at Joint Stocks Landfill, near Kelloe, are regularly monitoredGas levels at Joint Stocks Landfill, near Kelloe, are regularly monitored

It is getting additional specialist equipment to monitor levels of gas and leachate levels near Mr Firth's home.

Mr Firth has lived in Kelloe for most of his life but has been spending more time at home since retiring as a prison officer and was walking his dog around the site several times a day.

Oliver Sherratt, the council's head of environment, said: “As soon as we were made aware of this potential issue, we invited the Environment Agency, the regulatory body for landfill sites, to independently investigate the concerns raised by Mr Firth.

"This included officers from Durham County Council and the Environment Agency meeting with Mr Firth to understand his concerns in detail and to agree an action plan. Until the investigation is complete, we are unable to comment further.”

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “We can confirm over the past two weeks representatives from the Environment Agency and Durham County Council have met with Mr Firth to discuss this matter. The outcome from the meeting was to set up a course of action, which has been discussed and agreed by all parties.

“The ongoing investigation is being delivered by both the EA and the local authority, and as the operator of Joints Stocks Landfill, Durham County Council will continue to monitor on a monthly basis the gas and leachate (liquid) levels from the site.

"The agency has ordered additional specialist equipment that will contribute towards the investigation’s results."

"We will continue to have regular contact with Mr Firth to keep him in the picture about how things are progressing.”