A waste site was nearly forced to shut and councils were told to take its rubbish elsewhere because of a shortage of lorry drivers.

The Waterdale waste transfer station in Garston is where waste collected across Hertfordshire is taken before it is then moved on again to be disposed of.

Councillors have been told by Hertfordshire County Council officers the Waterdale site has been struggling to cope with the amount of rubbish arriving.

The Observer understands the council has been experiencing issues throughout the summer and during one week, it came within "days" of temporarily shutting the Waterdale site.

Watford Observer: Vehicles queuing into the waste transfer station at Waterdale this summerVehicles queuing into the waste transfer station at Waterdale this summer

A spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council said: "Our waste transfer station at Waterdale has been under significant pressure over the summer due to a combination of a national shortage of HGV drivers, pandemic-related staff absences and a 10 per cent increase in the volume of waste being collected over the last 18 months.

"Fortunately, by working closely with our partner authorities in the Hertfordshire Waste Partnership, we have, so far, been able to manage this extra pressure and the district and borough councils have not needed to turn lorries away or to take their waste elsewhere."

The council says 65 per cent of Hertfordshire’s residual waste goes through the Waterdale transfer station, where it is loaded on to larger lorries before being sent on to recovery and disposal facilities outside the county.

The council says it is taking a number of steps to reduce pressure at Waterdale and increase capacity across the county, including buying land to expand the Waterdale transfer station, consulting on plans for a new transfer station next to our recycling centre in Ware, and developing plans for a transfer station in the north of the county near Letchworth.

Watford Observer: The entrance to the Waterdale recycling site and waste transfer stationThe entrance to the Waterdale recycling site and waste transfer station

At a meeting of the county council's environment panel last week, head of waste management Matt King said the council had supported lobbying of government, in a bid to introduce measures such as increasing driver testing capacity and he outlined some of the actions that were already being taken locally – which include providing a "package" for existing staff in a bid to retain them.

He said the challenge was "magnified" in Hertfordshire, "by the comparative lack of options in its own infrastructure".

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told MPs in the Commons yesterday Brexit has nothing to do with the driver shortage, insisting the pandemic is the "number one cause" for the shortfall of 90,000 drivers across the nation.

He said: "I am not going to stand here and deny that there haven’t been big changes to the way our industry is operating but no-one can realistically deny that those problems had been coming along for a very long time. If there is a number one cause, it quite clearly is the pandemic."

Watford Observer: A map of the Waterdale waste site. Credit: GoogleA map of the Waterdale waste site. Credit: Google

Meanwhile, Cllr Seaumus Quilty has said Hertsmere Borough Council currently doesn't have enough staff to run its waste and recycling collections, with six driver vacancies as well as a shortage of loaders available.

The council says its fortnightly residual waste and recycling collections are continuing as normal for now but admitted the council is "under pressure".