Albright’s toxic archives #22 Albright’s bluestone blues


Albright and Wilson’s waste disposal activities did not just extend to pumping toxic slurries and burying drums at their own tips. They also offloaded hazardous waste to some dubious entities involved in “waste disposal”- one of these being “Bluestone chemicals Limited” based in Wrexham.

Bluestone had been granted a waste disposal licence to operate a transfer station/ come recovery operation in January 1994. Albright and Wilson were perhaps their best known “customers”.

It appears that this arrangement had cost AW nothing, yes that’s right , most people would ask questions about such an arrangement, but like many things involving this odious Oldbury polluter, including the infamous cut and shut rodder assembly that led to the uncontrolled release of phosphine gas off site in Langley in 2009, they were all about penny pinching and cutting environmental standards.

An article in the ENDS report dated 1st December 1998 confirms and sets the scene about this fiasco.

“Saga of Wrexham chemical waste stockpile continues

“The Wrexham waste treatment firm which accepted thousands of drums of chemical waste from Albright & Wilson (A&W) free of charge – only to find that its recycling process would not work – has now gone into liquidation. A&W is still refusing to say whether it will fund the site’s clean-up – preferring to see if Bluestone’s former directors succeed in a bid to reprocess the waste under a new name.”

The report reveals that A&W saved a six-figure sum by sending its waste to Bluestone, avoiding high landfill fees for the difficult wastes. The copper chrome catalysts and fatty alcohol recovery process of bluestone was rubbish. Between the three years of 1994-1997, not long before AW were heading for take over by Rhodia, they offloaded 2,000 tonnes of waste to the Welsh boyos.

The company had been officially wound up with a high court order, yet the directors had already attempted to set up another company (oh how easy it is), to transfer the waste management licence to the new phoenix company.

It appears that, as per usual from the article, the dishonesty of Albright and Wilson was apparent in that they had originally claimed that the waste had not come from them.

“We and the Environment Agency are very keen that this material should be recycled rather than dumped,” the spokeswoman said. “But if [landfill] is the only option then that is what will happen.”

A&W is still refusing to pledge funds to cleaning up the site should its “technical cooperation” fail to bear fruit. “We cannot comment one way or another” on who would pay, the spokeswoman said.”  🙄 

This is perhaps typical of the chemical industry at large. The waste disposalists are the igor to the white coated Doctor Frankensteins, waiting to unleash a  monster onto an unsuspecting public and environment. Personally I believe the highly dodgy arrangement with this crap contractor should have landed AW in the dock. The “duty of care” was none existent.

A further complication of this sorry episode was revealed in an Environment agency article, which I retrieved in the early days of the internet in 2001. At this point in time, with the deaths of many birds at rattlechain, I was looking into the activities of this company and what they were dumping, or may have dumped at their “premier” landfill site in Tividale.

I even raised it at one of the meetings we attended at Trinity Street, where Health and Safety manager Tom Dutton said that the barrels had not gone to rattlechain, but the issue with Bluestone had been “embarrassing for the company”.  😳

The article explores the legal complexities of what happens to toxic waste when a company goes bust, and the issue of the licence and the waste itself. It also reveals the total failure of the regulators to get tough with failing companies like Bluestone chemicals and instead give them time and space to continue their failing operations. It is clear to me from many instances that this arrangement is simply not the job of a regulator and that they are more interested in protecting failed businessmen and their shit business model than they are the general public and the environment. If a company is clearly failing, then their activities should be stopped immediately. The fact that the article states that many of the 7,000 drums on site were corroding and stored in the open, is an admission about the failure of The Environment Agency and their predecessor as a regulator to regulate this site properly, just like the failures of EA staff to regulate the scumbags at Trinity Street properly over many years at Rattlechain.


A further ENDS article from 31st March 2004 reveals that the eyesore of AW’s cheapskate dumping had finally been sorted.

“Chemical waste stockpile in Wrexham finally cleared

The Wrexham waste treatment site that was abandoned in 1998, leaving behind thousands of tonnes of chemical waste, has finally been cleared thanks to funding from the Welsh Development Agency and the persistence of the neighbouring business Brake Engineering – which bought the site but ended up having to contribute more to the clean-up costs than it had anticipated.”

And just to be clear again

“Around half the drums remaining on site came from chemicals firm Albright & Wilson, now part of Rhodia, which had handed the waste to Bluestone without paying a penny. The other half of the stockpile which had funded the plant build came from Germany, the Netherlands and the Philippines. “

It appears that this is one of the rumoured non disclosures that Albright and Wilson made to Rhodia when they took over the company, with the French monsieurs unaware of the environmental liabilities that the Warley wonders had left behind for them. It is stated that Rhodia finally coughed up £200,000 for the disposal of the remaining 1,506 tonnes of waste it had delivered to Bluestone- that perhaps serves them right for thinking they could just dump it for free to start with. One should not have any sorrow for Rhodia, they were as shit an operator as AW, and just as economic with the truth about their waste disposal activities, with the same people largely at the helm.

The only casualty of this episode, for which there appears to have been no justice at all is the neighbouring firm Brake engineering, and in particular their responsible director John Willis who had bought the site when the dubious directors at Bluestone had simply attempted to restart their failed business by a different name. Despite some help from the Welsh Development Agency, this small business, through no fault of their own were landed with a sizeable bill for clearing the rest of the crud left behind.

“There’s also the time that we as a small business have expended in dealing with this nightmare, which has been brought about by a series of bureaucratic blunders,” he says. Much of the difficulties can be traced back to the council’s role in granting a waste site licence to Bluestone in the early 1990s.

Mr Willis puts his costs since the WDA grant was agreed at £91,646, in exchange for which he now owns land worth an estimated £50,000. “We cannot leave matters as they are and are pursuing a more equitable settlement as we are the injured party in all of this, and have ended up paying a lot more than the site is worth.

One is reminded of the claim made by Albright and Wilson in The Environment Agency audit of the Oldbury factory in 1997– when they were still offloading hazardous chemical crap for free to Wrexham.

Albright & Wilson place the highest priority on the protection of its employees, customers, neighbours and others who may come into contact with, or be affected by, its operations or products. This is the guiding principle of our Health, Safety and Environment Policy.”


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