*Well, only the last part of the title in this post is a little April 1st smelly.
So many of our urban areas in The Industrial West Midlands have at one time or another been hit with quite appalling air quality issues , yet it seems that these are almost played down by the authorities who attempt to claim that there are no health risks associated with them. I have previously unearthed a great deal of information about The Oldbury smell- caused by the stench mongers of Oldbury- Albright and Wilson, and even the offspring of this- The Tipton smell. But now our Northern cousins are also not immune from an olfactory menace sweeping across the firmament like an egg fart splurge gun.
THE WALSALL SMELL
Over the course of recent months there appears to be a strange De Ja Vu or (poo) occurring in the area of Walsall Wood and Shelfield. Leigh Land Reclamation Limited- an offshoot of the vile polluting Leigh Interests had gazumped the WMBC many years ago in buying new tips in the Walsall area. They ran them for profit and held the local authority over a barrel in terms of waste disposal.
What is clear is that a nasty smell has arisen from the depths of the “new” Highfields Tip , run originally by Cory environmental, but now the altered name of “Enovert”.
There appears to be a heated anger from local residents about this statutory nuisance, but the official response by the council appears to be very poor indeed. In fact if you read some of the articles concerning Leigh back in the day when they were causing major issues, they do appear to be very similar guarded statements from the leadership of the local authority.
The residents , as with those from CAATW were concerned about the hidden health impacts that such a site was having upon those who lived in the area. They are struggling to find good information to this end, but find themselves in a political field where those in power jockey for the moral high ground, whilst also apparently not wanting to openly criticise a disgusting polluting business.
I’ve been past this site many times, and it bloody stinks, there are no two ways about that.
Councillor Bird, the current leader of the council, (I lose count), has been around for many years, and would remember the Leigh fiasco well, and it should be stated that his council officers appeared impotent to take action on at that time. But merely mouthed statements such as the ones attributed to him in a recent Express and Star article, where he claims that unnamed pollution control officers have taken samples and declared that there is “no significant risk” from this tip site is woeful.
But gone are the days where official line is believed, and we now live in the internet age and that of FOI, so I put in a request to WMBC to illicit these test results so that we can see exactly what scrutiny these officers have made of this appalling olfactory trespasser. WMBC responded:
“Real time air quality monitoring was carried out using a Biogas GA5000 portable gas analyser manufactured by Geotechnical Instruments Ltd. The analyser calibrated in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions measures oxygen, carbon dioxide, methane and hydrogen sulphide. The purpose of the monitoring exercise carried out this year was to establish whether methane and/or hydrogen sulphide could be detected downwind of
Highfields Landfill site when malodour was detected. Monitoring was carried out January 30th on Walsall Road, and January 31st , February 3rd and 5th February on Boatmans Lane. No recordings were made, only officer notes that neither methane or hydrogen sulphide was detected.
No soil or water sampling was carried out, only real time air quality monitoring.
No map was made at the time of the monitoring exercise.”
This really isn’t very much in the way of detail is it to make such a claim of “no significant risk” is it? There may not be a continuous waft of the substances tested for in these locations, and why should the smell and gases involved obey roadside verges? What about tests directly at source on the site itself? Where is the data for this?
One should be vary wary of just accepting information given down by Walsall council without seriously scrutinising the information. Firstly their Hazardous Waste Unit were an incompetent joke from the top down, and when it was disbanded in 1996 when The Environment Agency was created, many of them unfortunately just got jobs within the new quango, or to environmental health teams within other local authorities.
A recent issue involving WMBC and “contaminated land” is a case in point. An area of the former Willenhall gas works , (a former “brownfield site”) that had seen houses built upon it , the Stonegate housing estate, had been declared as “contaminated land” by the local authority. This is a prime example of the stupidity of building on brownfield land that Mayor Street (Tory Tonka) and his friend Mr Bird (who occupies a position on the undemocratic West Midlands Combined authority dealing in housing) are so keen on doing these days.
After attempting to pursue those who built the houses through legal action to remediate the site, this public enquiry decision by the planning inspectorate went against the council, who would then have been forced to pay for remediation themselves.
I put in an FOI request a while ago to the council about this to obtain the ruling and statements made, but I was just referred to a link on the council website.
The main concern of the council was about soil derived dusts from the carcinogenic benzo (a) pyrene, and was expressed as thus in the case for the remediation notice served on the former housing developer company in that there was “possibility of significant harm arising” to receptors.
WMBC then conducted a new set of tests with a new environmental consultancy, LQM, incredibly then claiming that the land was NOT contaminated after all! Well how bloody amazing is that when they were faced with having to pay millions out themselves instead of someone else?
The inspector’s ruling on Walsall and their original consultants AECOM was rather scathing as to how they served the notice, which was quashed.
The former 1st results and the planning inspectorate ruling have now all disappeared off the council website, to be replaced with only the new consultancy results. It also appears that much of the information that had previously been accessible on contaminated land – especially the former historic waste site licences on the public register have now also gone (which I wrote about concerning doomwatch sites).
This is what you now get. So why would this have happened I wonder? It seems to me that certain people in this council are rather frit (or perhaps the term “bricking it” would be more apt), about old information coming to light to scupper their plans, and potentially expose the shit monitoring of old sites by their former useless hazardous waste unit, which may leave them as an authority liable for legal action when subsequent knowledge of the failures come to light?
But here are the report and the Secretary of States decision letter below. 😆
Unfortunately when you read the new report in conjunction with the so called “guidance” issued by the Government departments, we are talking semantic wordplay as to what constitutes real risk and “significant possibility of significant harm”.
“The work undertaken by LQM concluded that there are greater than background concentrations of contaminants at the Site associated with historical industrial activities including waste disposal from the gasworks. However, LQM’s site investigation and subsequent assessment of the combined results has found the concentrations of contaminants in the soils at the Site do not represent an unacceptable risk to human health when considered in light of the Statutory Guidance. This means the land should not be considered ‘Contaminated Land’ under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. “
I would say that this statutory guidance is written by civil servants to serve themselves, who like their paymasters want to promote the reckless brownfield building agenda, but who will ever trace these scumbags 50 years down the line when human health risks manifest themselves? Some of them will no doubt leave their jobs to set up their own environmental consultancies, where an on tap business of writing off land plastered with toxic crap and building houses on top of this can be secured through their previous shite “guidance”.
In terms of the Walsall smell,there appears to be little reassurance in that those in power are unable to answer about where and how this smell has suddenly arisen to such appalling public alarm.
There’s an interesting background document below when Walsall council were debating about the use of the former Highfields quarry back in 2006.
From this a rather telling statement.
“Proposed development and site details
Highfields South Quarry is an active clay quarry covering 12 hectares of land located south of the A461 Lichfield Road, approximately 400 metres north of Shelfield. The site is outlined on the attached plan. The surrounding uses are mixed with residential property to the west and open land to the north. Immediately to the north east is the Barons Court Hotel. To the south is the former landfill site owned by Veolia Environmental Services (formerly Onyx UK Ltd). In the wider area there are residential properties close by on Queen Street, Walsall Wood. The existing operational Vigo Utopia Landfill site lies to the east beyond Boatmans Lane.”
and most notably
“Odour concerns arising from some of the gas management and dispersion modelling issues, which influence assessment of the potential for odour to impact upon local amenity, may be capable of resolution with the applicants. However matters relating to day to day working practice remain an area of some concern. “Management Procedure” utilised to direct on site activity associated with the handling of wastes normally fall to be regulated by the Environment Agency. The applicant has indicated that they are willing to accept conditions requiring them to agree odour and fly control procedures with the Planning Authority and to meet Walsall Council representatives on a regular basis to review the effectiveness of such procedures. This course of action would enable the authority to retain some measure of control over situations likely to create “nuisance” to local residents.
There have been some instances when odour from “fresh waste” has been detectable outside the site boundary at Vigo – Utopia although domestic waste (directly from collection rounds) is not included in the list of waste types allowed for direct delivery to the site. It is reasonable to take the view that a similar situation may arise at Highfields South although sensitive land uses are not in such close proximity to the site boundary.
The applicant has provided a detailed description of the engineering design of the land form which adds weight to the claims by the applicant that improved levels of control of odour from landfill gas can be achieved when compared to the situation at Vigo – Utopia. Odours will remain to be controlled by speedy laying of adequate cover onto the waste throughout the working day. In view of this there will inevitably be occasions when odour will be detectable outside the site boundary.
In general, subject to Enviros advising that the additional information provided by MJCA has addressed their concerns, the proposals and controls put forward by the applicant coupled with the offer to accept conditions allowing the effectiveness of these to be reviewed and modified as appropriate provide reasonable assurance that activities can be managed so as to minimise impact upon the local amenity and environment.”
So WTF went wrong? 😳
Another interesting document, again from Walsall council themselves, is an air quality assessment made in the borough around the same period, when the site was still being used as a quarry. Pages 8-15 refer.
“2.3.3 This monitoring program has been conducted at a position (Highfields farm) relevant to public exposure where consideration has been given to the siting of the sampling location in relation to Highfields South mineral extraction site. This site represents a location where exposure to dust emissions are likely to be relatively high (downwind from the source based upon the assumption that the prevailing winds having a southerly component). Figure 1 identifies the location of the monitoring station in relation to the mineral extraction site.”
The question of particulate matter PM10’S is assessed at this time, but what assessments have been made SINCE the site became a tip, and in light of the movements of material on the site- all generating significant amounts of particulate matter and soil derived dusts?
If I were a local resident living near to this site, I would be asking serious questions about the real health impacts associated with PM10’s in this area, as well as the odours, as it appears that the latest council monitoring does not appear to address this issue at all.
And if you think that Public Health England (formerly The Health Protection Agency) (sic) are in any way competent at giving advice on whether “well managed” landfill sites pose no risk to health, then consider how they were paid by Rhodia to produce a report of such breath taking crap, that they failed to monitor many chemicals of concern at Rattlechain lagoon in their joke “human health risk assessment”- which also left out significant historical facts that were not what their client wanted the public to know about.
But just to throw into the mix, I think it relevant to point out the digging that has been going on next to the two former abysmally ran and multiple licence breaching Leigh Interests sites in this area in recent times. Firstly the cavernous border with this tip, including the diverted Vigo brook, and the filled in fraudulent “sealosafe” Empire/Butterley holes is noted.
The other development is that of the “well of souls” adjacent to the former Mitco lagoon , off Coppice Lane, and is it just a coincidence that they have been carrying out major pumping operations at both sites at the same time? What exactly is going on here?
If you look at a map of this area, these two points run in a roughly straight line, so just join the dots.
I say it’s “relevant” because another Walsall council document, 😆 appears to make a similar comment. Their submission for site allocation mineral deposits in the area gives some interesting background info on many of these vile brickwork hole sites, subsequently infilled by scumbag operators. This document was written in only January of last year 2019.
Pages 43-50 refer to the Highfields South site, and contains some useful planning history info. But just look what they tell us here!
“There are potential risks from migration of contaminants from the adjacent former Empire/ Butterley landfill site were evaluated before the restoration programme was approved and the measures proposed to manage the risks are considered satisfactory, subject to ongoing monitoring.”
But do we get any information about monitoring of this particular issue from the EA or Walsall council themselves in terms of contaminants and health risks associated with the hazardous wastes that were infilled into here using the fraudulent “sealosafe” process overseen by Walsall council’s USELESS hazardous waste unit? Er… no we do not. They instead focus solely on the Enovert site itself.
A recent FOI request to Walsall council reveals the following about actual monitoring of the Leigh sites, and the fact that their officers have undertaken no monitoring of these contaminated sites since the creation of the agency in 1996.
“Walsall Council holds no records of Deep Mine Waste Disposal monitoring
post 1995. (see below) This enquiry is best referred to the Environment
Agency who are the regulatory authority for waste disposal matters
Liquid wastes, predominantly hydrocarbons were disposed of via a borehole
situated at the Leigh Environmental treatment works at Stubbers Green.
This borehole placed wastes into the disused coal workings in the local
area. The level of liquid in this borehole was monitored and recorded by
the site operators and results were reviewed by the West Midlands
Hazardous Waste, later absorbed into the Environment Agency in 1995.
This unit undertook sampling of the groundwater underlying the area at
boreholes known as ‘Copy Hall’ (located off Hall Lane), Dumblederry Lane,
The Weinerberger Brick Works (Stubbers Green Road) and the Mitco Site (off
The Environment Agency may hold records of this work. Walsall MBC may have
retained some records however the location of these is unclear and it is
possible they are archived off site. The current public health crisis
prevents access to some locations and paper records in our building.
We are however able to say with some confidence that no monitoring has
been undertaken by Walsall Council following the setting up of the
Environment Agency and transfer of regulatory powers in relation to waste
disposal and water quality to them.”
And here’s another gem from the Walsall mineral sites document , which probably suggests why WMBC are so keen to ensure the profitability of this site.
“This site is currently Walsall’s only ‘open gate’ landfill site, which is accessible to users seeking to dispose of inert and non-hazardous waste from other parts of the West Midlands, such as adjoining parts of the Black Country, Birmingham and Staffordshire. Information from the Environment Agency Waste Data Interrogator shows that the site is accepting waste from other parts of the West Midlands, although a high proportion of the waste received is not coded to a specific authority area.”
Enovert, like Leigh before them, appear to want to ingratiate themselves to people in the area, to mitigate their dire statutory nuisance with stunts such as this.
Their permit at the site, which can be read HERE, contains some detail on odour emissions.
The EA have also introduced a handy “fartometer” so that people making complaints can give them a score.
From what I have seen and has been announced, Enovert are now applying a geotextile membrane to their tip area visible from Walsall Road- and this was confirmed in a council statement on the website, but this is surely just a sticking plaster, as the London based trumpers continue to pump their obnoxious gas. They apparently have permission to do what they are doing at this site till at least 2025.
In these troubled times when people are being forcibly confined to barracks, except for a bit of in- out daily exercise, perhaps the only solution for fresh air is to don your trusty SM-74 when venturing into the vicinity of this repugnant Enovert receptacle.