The Leigh Environment-HELL Files #2- The Mitco Grime Lords

Stick with me and my sonic screwdriver, all will be revealed.

Leigh Interests via their “Effluent Disposal” subsidiary had commenced disposal of millions of gallons of toxic and acidic wastes into the large former Walsall Wood Colliery workings. A blockage had occurred, which led to them looking for alternative outlets.

The Birmingham Daily Post article of June 6th 1976 sets the scene for the story so far and what happened next….

 

 

The article reveals quite serious failings, not only for this company but for the local authorities, who it appears were utterly clueless in what to do for the best. In one respect their pandering to business interests was obviously in contrast to their appeasement of concerned locals- who of course elected them in and could elect them out. The West Midands it appears was the shit tip dumping ground of the UK,(over 40% of the acidic wastes originating from outside the area), and whilst a very few businessmen in Leigh Interests who did not live in the area profited, no one else in the area did.

The article refers to “The Mitco site” which was an area on the workings of the former Aldridge colliery  in Walsall Wood.

1901

Effectively this was a toxic lagoon like rattlechain, formed when the liquid waste was diverted from the Leigh blocked shaft. After being “neutralised”, from here it was ferried to Liverpool where it was dumped into the sea! The dithering of those responsible for this fiasco is as bad as the “breach of planning regulations” themselves. Leigh’s other site, Joberns Tip, a close neighbour off Coppice lane and Northgate  is also mentioned as a problem site. Both sites would soon be given waste disposal licence permission when new legislation was introduced under “The Control of Pollution Act.” . The mitco site was numbered SL46 – LEIGH INTERESTS LIMITED MITCO SITE, COPPICE LANE ALDRIDGE WALSALL. 

A nasty lagoon full of toxic dumped waste

Overlay of current map and the 1901 outline. The Aldridge brick and Tile works site lay next to the Mitco site and Jobern’s Tip. This company was taken over by Ibstock in 1965 who are still based in this area.

I have been unable so far in my endeavours to locate this licence as well as that issued to the Jobern’s Tip site, which was given the title SL47 “EFFLUENT DISPOSAL LTD JOBERNS TIP, COPPICE LANE , ALDRIDGE, WALSALL.” 

The environment agency claimed that they did not have these licences in an FOI request, and neither did Walsall council initially, despite them providing the secretariat to The West Midlands Hazardous Waste unit 1986-1996 which followed the demise of the West Midlands County Council!  After a modified request, WMBC came back with a little more information

“We have copies of the draft licence that was supplied to the WMHWU however
we do not hold a copy of the officially issued licence and not have been
provided with one by return from the WMHWU.  They would have been
transferred to the Environment Agency once they took over as regulators
for waste facilities.”  😐 

Walsall  provided some of the draft conditions for the Joberns Tip site, and evidence of an enforcement notice issued against Leigh on 13/5/1975 with a useful map of this site. 

From my own private research, The Mitco SL46 was passed as a licence issued by The West Midlands County Council Waste Disposal Committee after some delay due to    “awaiting agreement between Effluent disposal limited and Severn Trent Water Authority over the removal of ‘water’ from the lagoon.”   The minutes of the 22nd December 1977  meeting of the county council committee confirm that it had been issued, along with another Effluent disposal site at Tividale, SL75 known  as “Monk’s Tip”.

It appears that from a modification notice supplied by WMBC in the request, that the licence was passed by WMCC on 21st February 1978, and that after this date Leigh had applied for it to be modified again to extend the life of the original date given to complete works. 

To rewind a little on events taking place up to this date- On 4th August 1976, a House of Commons debate on Waste disposal in the West Midands led to some interesting observations and comments by Perry Barr MP Jeoff Rooker. 

From this debate he stated;

“Toxic waste is still being generated in the West Midlands. It is, in fact, being generated all over the country, because 40 per cent. of the waste which was being disposed of down the mine came from other parts of the country. The waste is still being disposed of, but now it is not hidden away several hundred feet below the ground but is being disposed of in an open lagoon of several hundred thousand gallons of poisonous waste. It is so dirty that the Health and Safety Inspectorate will not allow its inspectors to investigate the site. The lagoon is littered with tin drums and other rubbish which cannot be recovered. The area has been condemned as “monstrous” by Sir Stanley Yapp, who says that it is

“The unacceptable face of tipping”,

and that

“Effluent Disposal Ltd. is showing a reckless disregard for planning conditions”.

It has been condemned by the chairman of the county council’s planning committee as totally unacceptable. Calls have gone from the county council, which has overall responsibility for the problem, to the Department of Industry urging Ministers to explore the possibility of offering incentives to firms to purchase equipment with which to treat their own waste. That is a laudable step because little is being done in that direction in this country—although I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister will describe moves that are being made to avoid the dumping of waste in Essex. Wholesale dumping occurs off our shores, and there is also the nuclear waste that we do not know what to do with. In The Birmingham Evening Mail of 6th July the Managing Director of Effluent Disposal Ltd, Mr. Malcolm Wood, referring to the remarks of Sir Stanley Yapp, is quoted as saying:

Sir Stan is fully entitled to his opinions. He has only to close us down and he can deal with the 800 industrial firms in the West Midlands who seem to think that we are the right place for them. If he will tell us to which county waste disposal sites we can take the effluent, we will do it tomorrow.”

That is an irresponsible attitude. He shows not the slightest concern over the generating of waste. Those 800 firms should be doing something about the problem themselves. “

Never mind TorchWood, with the self absorbed Mr Wood

Clearly the dumping of the waste at sea and ferrying it there was a disgrace, but so was bringing it to Walsall in the first place. Leigh would use deeply underhand tactics in creating one problem to resume regeneration of underground discharge as a “solution”. 

A plan to drill a new borehole adjacent to the Mitco tip was proposed and highlighted in this Birmingham post article of 1st July. The “exploration” part of this in terms of anything to do with the Walsall Wood blockage was a phoney claim.

Holey Shit!

On October 15th 1976, The Post exposed that a former sewage works in Kinver was eyed as being another potential “solution” but had been abandoned with fierce local opposition. It is highlighted that not only were Walsall council taking legal action against the company but also The Health and Safety Executive for “unsafe working conditions and practices” at the Mitco site.

A subsequent interesting  article of 9th December  discusses the waste “war” issues that the West Midlands faced at this time, with particular reference to the subterranean  and the Mitco lagoon problems. It also attempts to look at the problems of “neutralising” wastes (at Mitco by powdered limestone and then slacked lime)- except at this point in history, this process did anything but. It rightly shows how utterly useless this metro council were in doing anything except telling industry to “get on with it” whilst we vaguely monitor what you are doing. Rather than creating their own waste disposal site , they had no real “experts” to advise them.

A Birmingham University lecturer disagrees with Effluent Disposal that their Walsall Wood  site is “hermetically sealed” and how the waste there was being contained.


The same paper on 21st December revealed a wonderful “present” to the area in the form of  new plans for a toxic waste plant  that would be called “The WestMid”. This was clearly a perverse attempt at persuading locals that other people’s toxic waste somehow gave some ownership to the area where it was being diverted for the profit of a few men.

Overlay of current Empire site where leigh built their new plant, and the overlay of the former Empire Marl hole and brickworks from 1901.

 

Once again The Mitco lagoon and Jobern’s tip sites are mentioned in the article as being a problem– (a problem remember that Leigh had created)- and that Wasall council had now served notices upon. Quoted in this article is one Philip Cope, Leigh’s Polymeric treatments “waste management consultant” . A “C.B. Cope” along with two others W.H Fuller and S.L Willets would write a book called “the scientific management of hazardous wastes”:mrgreen: though not revealing their links to this company in the multiple advertising of the companies much heralded “sealosafe” process. I will be going into much detail about “sealosafe” and the total disingenuous liability that it was in the next of these posts about this company, but “safe” to say the “scientific” claims about its ability were absolute bunkem from day one.

Also quoted here is the useless Ken Harvey, a man who when he died in 1980 left behind a toxic legacy of failure as the county waste disposal officer of this useless metro council authority. The new borehole that is spoken of here is the deception that Leigh  used to remove the mitco lagoon problem, as well as continuing their underground disposal.

Perhaps a woman in Harvey’s place would have done a better job of maintaining the police role of regulator.  😆

 

And so the new year brought more bad headlines for Leigh, and the title of this post from February 15th 1977 refers directly to this headline and direct quote from one of the local councillors who had visited the sprawling Leigh sites. “Toxic waste site ‘looks like something out of Dr Who”.

I’m not sure if this was in the form of cybermen, or a turdis that looked bigger on the inside than it did on the outside?


The chair of the County Council William Jarvis said that they should have “some teeth” and visit the “disgraceful” situation there at the Mitco tip.

Sir Stan Yapp the leader of the council went even further, and perhaps rarely for a politician was not prepared to just pay lip service to a local business, directly criticising the main man behind Leigh’s /effluent disposal’s operations, Malcolm Wood.

 

 

 

 

Sir Stan Yapp “Certainly those who have met the managing director Mr Wood, know what a smug and arrogant man he is and completely contemptuous of councillors and people operating in the public interest.”

 

 

This criticism didn’t go down very well with the stooges of Leigh who began a letter writing campaign in the paper after this story appeared, even one from Wood’s secretary to which straight talking Stan came back with this beautiful one liner….

Environmental hero- Sir Stan

It is revealed in the Birmingham Post article that Effluent Disposal had been fined a month earlier a total of £500 on their sites for dumping poisonous wastes likely to cause harm to the environment, one of which was at The Mitco site. It was clear that the powers that be wanted this site closed as soon as possible.

As 1977 progressed, so did the aspirations of the disposal deceivers. The headline of 21st June confirmed that they had been given permission to extend its operations at The Empire brickworks. The “sealosafe” process would be used in the new plant, (sealosafe 1) and by now the new licensing system, so flawed in every way, had come into force. This would later be licensed under SL50/51, originally issued on 20/8/1977 , though litigation about conditions would go on for some years and this would evolve into just a new SL51 licence.  The comments of the planner, also called Wood, though I don’t think a relation to the other one from Leigh, are optimistic to say the least. It was quite clear however as would be revealed that they had been totally conned about the real intentions!

In the same paper on 24th August, we get the first inkling as to the strategy that the directors of Leigh were taking. It was quite clear that the “surface” tip that they had created and the fury that it had produced was a ruse to divert this shite down into the ground but in a different location, glued together by their fake “sealosafe” product.

Effluent Disposal had applied for planning permission to recommence underground discharge and clear the Mitco lagoon. Politically this was not a welcome development, and local MP Geoff Edge for Aldridge Brownhills appeared at the forefront of attempting to stop it. The counterclaims by the supercilious Wood of EDL appear typical and confirm everything that Stan Yapp had said about him to be absolutely true. The test borehole was an utter premeditated con job by him and his company. 

A further Post article from  25th August reported that Geoff Edge had gained support from over 2000 local residents who had signed a petition against Leigh Environmental from resuming underground waste dumping from the Mitco lagoon. The comment from David Anderton from the company appears to confirm what would subsequently happen to the site and the site licence that they had applied for. The landfilling operations at the site were just a means to an end for this company, and the talk of industry suffering as a result of not being able to use the facility a smokescreen for the profit that Leigh were making. Local residents in this area did NOT have to accept the fact that an area for the toxic waste of industry should be dumped under their homes. They did NOT have to accept that Leigh Interests had any right to do so. They did NOT have to accept that they should all have to bend over backwards for one single company. The comment from the paid consultant from Leigh and that of the local resident about “water” also speaks volumes.

“You aren’t on about “water”, you are on about poison.”

The Post ran another story on 13th October. It is stated that the WMCC would contest the plans for a temporary underground dumping to be decided by the local committee that week.

Public concerns clearly outweighed those of this one business to at least some of the committee, but what planet Councillor Clewes was on is a different story. The legal agreement put forward by the officer wasn’t really a good idea based on “the bad track record ” of the dumpers.

Leigh wanted to sell this idea as removing the issue of the lagoon- a problem of their creation, and removing lorries from the local roads- again their created problem.

The 8th November Birmingham Post reported that an influential group in the West Midlands had backed residents concerns about the tipping of wastes underground. Comments made by Malcolm Wood about the ability of “sealosafe” blocks  would prove to be completely false.

 

At the infamous West Midlands County Council Waste Disposal & Pollution Control Committee of 22nd December 1977, the previous two “contentious licence” agenda items (b) and (c) are notable, and I include the full page here, because they relate to Rattlechain lagoon and The Gower Tip, as well as The Accles and Pollock acid lagoon at their Paddock works in Shidas Lane! What an absolutely disgusting barrage of pollution and future (still unresolved today) grime was summarised and passed that day by the bloody fools on this committee!

The issues surrounding this licence were touched upon in the previous news article, but the issue for the WMCC appears to have been about Walsall council’s agreement with Leigh interests and the Section 52 agreement. For some reason, this council had made their own problems with this ludicrous agreement in that there was a time limit for the removal of the liquid waste by the end of 1978. It had also time limited the landfilling of the site to the same date, and the landscaping to 31st March 1979. Clearly Leigh had played them for the fools that they were.



There are some strange irregularities with the approval of this licence- by one man, the chair Councillor Smith, and of the dodgy deal which appears to have taken place between Walsall council and this dirty polluter that it had concerns about. It is interesting to note that at this time there was a domestic landfill waste disposal problem in Walsall with capacity, yet Leigh had outbid the council on potential solutions to this by buying the brickwork sites, with their subsidiary “Leigh Land Reclamation Limited” and effectively having them over a barrel.

The licence approved in appendix E refers to SL226 and can be read in the PDF below.

SL226 Mitco borehole

This licence with its  21  conditions is shown as being issued on 22nd November 1977. It appears however  that  an extension was sort from The West Midlands County Council ,after the proposed agreement with WMBC ,as an amendment to SL46 giving this licence an extension to 31st July 1980, (as mentioned in the modification that Walsall council supplied me with in the FOI request.) 

A WMCC Joint planning/Waste disposal committee meeting dated April 12th 1978 took place. This was to give recommendations to Walsall Council planners as to the application for continuous resumed discharge to the new borehole that would later become the SL273 licenced area.

The motion put forward to reject the application was lost by both committees and therefore approved! The planning committee consisting of 8 members was tied, but Councillor Campbell as chair gave his vote in favour of Leigh. The disgraceful “waste disposal and pollution control committee” (a sick description if ever there was one), cast their vote in favour of Leigh 8-5. 

So for the benefit of historic record, here is the list of those county councillors who sold out the people of Walsall in voting through the scheme by this vile industrial polluter.

From planning Campbell, Griffiths, Ledbetter(see comment above in article about “cleaning up their act”- what a burk!) , Lynne

From The Waste disposal and pollution control committee

Ison (no surprise there), Dr Jones, Lea, Qualters, Shires, H. Smith (the one man who had granted Leigh permission as chair for their licence in December 1977), Tozer, and Wilkes.

And here for historic record are the list of those who stood up for the local people of Walsall against this.  

From Planning

Hayward, Spector, Wood and Wright.

From waste disposal and pollution control committee, doing their jobs

Councillors Dr Rogers, Anderson, Downey, Milne, and White.

It does appear that despite this bonkers recommendation, that Walsall had the foresight to reject the proposal, only for it to be subsequently overturned on appeal at a planning enquiry by the company.  👿

Leigh would eventually clear the lagoon, and recommence dumping below the surface, but the problems that they had with their methods, and the opposition to their activities from local residents would continue for many years. 

The outline of the former hazardous waste lagoon is still visible and even still contains a “water feature”. Image bing maps.

Jobern’s Tip remains in the centre of the picture, in close proximity to the Mitco lagoon remnants site.


 

I’m sure this looks like Shelfield.  😆

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