James Howells later told CoinMarketCap asbestos is buried at the landfill despite the fact it's in a flood zone, but the council says strict laws ensure all activity is safe and monitored.
A man who threw away a hard drive containing 8,000 BTC worth $173 million claims he's being stopped from searching a landfill site because "hazardous materials" have been buried there.
James Howells made the allegation on a BBC Radio 2 interview — and even went on to allege that the waste should not have been placed there.
He went on to assert that this was the real reason why his team had been denied access to hunt for the hard drive, rather than "environmental" grounds as first suggested.
Howells was stopped from giving further details during the BBC interview because Newport Council wasn't able to give an immediate response.
But in direct messages with CoinMarketCap, the Welshman pointed to permits that suggest asbestos has been buried at the landfill site, which is situated in a flood zone.
Howells also alleged that there are no protections to stop this asbestos from entering a nearby river — but his team were planning to install a concrete flood protection barrier that would stop contaminated waste from spilling in. He told CoinMarketCap:
"Unfortunately Newport City Council would rather sweep this under the carpet rather than deal with it like adults in a professional manner."
CoinMarketCap reached out to Newport City Council for its response to all these allegations.
It referred us to an earlier statement that said it wouldn't be possible to retrieve this hardware because it "would have a huge negative environmental impact on the area," adding:
"We have been very clear and consistent in our responses that we cannot assist Mr Howells in this matter. Our position has not changed. We will be offering no further comments on this issue as it takes up valuable officer time which could be spent on delivering services for the residents of Newport."
In relation to the questions surrounding asbestos, the council said:
"Legislation sets out a strict regime for sites to be permitted and for monitoring activity during the life of any site. The regulator will only authorize activity it deems to be safe, and it carries out regular inspections to ensure this."
Chances of Success?
Local experts have told CoinMarketCap that Howells is "delusional" — adding:
"There's no way in a million years that Newport tip will allow people to dig it up because of the gasses in there."
A man who works at the landfill site in question, who called the BBC immediately after Howells' interview, also had doubts. When asked about his chances of recovering the hard drive, he said:
"An individual hard drive on this site, it's worse than a needle in a haystack. It's highly impossible. They might have an idea of where it is, but my personal opinion is that the state of the stuff in the ground — you're not going to recover it."
He went on to describe it as an "impossible dream" — and using machinery to try and retrieve the hard drive could damage it further.
Meanwhile, a security engineer told the BBC that a hard drive would have disintegrated after nine years underground — and the data it holds could be damaged by the tiniest speck of dust. When asked about the technical experts Howells has employed to help in the search, he added:
"There's a very slim possibility that he may get some data back off the drive — but even properly stored for 10 years, the magnetic information on the disk can degrade. This is far from an ideal storage situation… I absolutely agree with the council on this one."
James Howells was meant to join the CoinMarketRecap podcast for an interview today, but he pulled out because he wanted to discuss allegations that there are attempts to steal his hard drive.
These claims have been staunchly denied, and we are unable to verify them.