Knowsley B.C REQ

Knowsley Industrial Park remediation information


“I am researching waste disposal sites in the UK known to have contained white or elemental phosphorus (P4),and their remediation schemes…..

Consequently my Freedom of information request relates to what information you hold on this matter and whether you can supply me with this information, specifically on known concentrations of elemental phosphorus on the site and their source of origin if known, and how the site was remediated successfully? As I am not familiar with the site, can you advise me of any historical information about the past uses of the site and how the clean up
has benefitted from successful remediation?”


A request to the Environment Agency National requests team asked them if they could identify “waste disposal sites in the UK known to have contained white or elemental phosphorus (P4),and their remediation schemes” aside from Rattlechain initiated the following response.

“As a result of our extended searches we have identified an additional site in the North West which may be relevant to your enquiry. The site is known as Knowsley Industrial Park and came to our attention as a result of a planning consultation from Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council. We understand that permission was granted to redevelop this site and that remediation did take place. Any requests for further information should be addressed to Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council, who are responsible for that site and who hold the respective planning register and associated records.”
Consequently a  Freedom of information request related  to this response was sent to Knowsley Borough Council where Ian Gaskell provided some interesting historical information.

 “Dear Mr Carroll,

Further to your information request with regards to Knowsley Industrial
Park I have the following comments;

o There are several files for this site and you are welcome you come in and have a look at them. Should you wish to come in to look at the information we hold please contact Ian Gaskell in the Environmental Health department on 0151 443 4709 to make the necessary arrangements.

o I presume you are making reference to the former Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF) and Albright & Wilson site on Acornfield Road, Kirkby.

The site however was not a waste disposal site.

o From the reports it can be seen that the concentrations of total phosphorus in the soil ranged from 89 to 6500 mg/kg. Generally the greater concentrations were found at depth as a subsurface pipe work was identified by a contractor, when breaking into this pipe spontaneous combustion of phosphorus residues occurred. A risk assessment was done and the outcome was that it was best to leave the pipe work in place but to encase it in a `concrete sarcophagus’.

o It is believed that the white phosphorus originated from the use of the site as a chemical manufacturing facility by Albright & Wilson (approximately between 1960’s to late 1970’s) rather than from the former ROF (1940 – 1946) use as a munitions burning ground which
preceded the chemical works. The high concentration in the drain at depth is thought to have resulted from fire fighting activities many years ago at the Albright & Wilson factory. Previous to these uses the site was fields.

o During the execution of the works several spontaneous fires occurred as a result of the uncovering of residues of white phosphorus. The fires were dealt with by covering with soil materials to eliminate the potential for further combustion.

o Intrusive investigations identified the presence of residual soil contamination by phosphorus, phosphate, ammonia and certain heavy metals/metalloids within the made ground in the southern half of the site i.e. the area of the site which had previously been developed for Albright & Wilson chemical manufacturing facility and the munitions burning ground. A risk assessment was conducted and it determined that no significant risk of harm to human health was posed by the contaminants which had been identified given the proposed end use as a distribution warehouse with associated hardstandings. As a result no specific remedial action was undertaken during site preparation works to specifically manage risks to human health from soil contamination.

When works started an initial strip of the top soil was taken up and stockpiled. Following testing, 1700m^3 of top soil was accepted by UK soil Ltd.

Due to elevated levels of carbon dioxide, with no flow detected, gas protection measures included the provision of a proprietary gas proof membrane for the office area of the building and a lapped and taped visqueen damp proof membrane for the remainder of the warehouse.

Groundwater monitoring and sampling work indicated contamination within the sandstone aquifer by ammonia, phosphorus and certain heavy metals and metalloids. It was concluded that the groundwater contamination had resulted from the use of the site by Albright & Wilson for the manufacture of cleaning fluids and fertilisers. Ammonia and phosphorus were important raw materials. The release of materials could have occurred as a result of a catastrophic fire which caused the closure of the site in the late 1970’s. It was concluded in consultation with the Environment Agency that the Acornfield Plantation should be protected from shallow contaminated groundwater flows by the placement of an impermeable cut-off trench formed from imported clay materials and keyed into the underlying in-situ natural clays proven to exist above bedrock. We understand that the construction details of this barrier were passed to and approved by the Environment Agency and that the barrier was placed prior to construction works commencing on site. The sandstone bedrock was protected by the natural clay layer as vibro columns used to support the building terminated in the

Groundwater monitoring from the sandstone aquifer has demonstrated that off site groundwaters to the south of the site have not been significantly impacted by ammonia or phosphate.

Within the site a replacement borehole did show an elevated concentration of ammonium relative to data collected in 2005. The cause of this elevated concentration was unknown. In all other aspects groundwater quality does not appear to have varied between December 2005 and June 2006.

In its current developed state the site is completely covered by buildings and hardstandings. All surface water and roof drainage is collected and discharged to combined sewer. As a result infiltration of precipitation to the site will be negligible thus minimising the potential for ammonia/ammonium to be mobilised from on-site soils. It is anticipated therefore that the potential for the flux of contaminant migration vertically to the major aquifer will decrease progressively over time.

o The site remediation has enabled the development of a warehouse on the site.

Should you require further information please do not hesitate to contact

Ian Gaskell
Scientific Officer”

We queried a few  points and the following answers were received

1Can you confirm that the Albright and Wilson site was built on top or adjacent to the ROF site?

The whole of the industrial park was the ROF site, and the Albright & Wilson site was the former ROF burning ground.

2. You mention a “total phosphorus” concentration level in the reports which I assume could include phosphate residue? Do you know what the elemental phosphorus, i.e P4 or white phosphorus levels were or if these were specifically tested for?

The laboratory analysis sheets in the closure report only seems to mention total phosphorus although one report does state that the phosphorus was ‘present on site as white phosphorus.’

3 You mention a munitions burning ground. Is there any evidence that Albright and Wilson No 76 SIP grenades manufactured at the Oldbury factory may have been destroyed at this site? I have read accounts of these being found in the Kirkby area, whereby they were
issued to the home guard. Over 7 million were made at Oldbury, but the Army claim that no records were kept of how they were disposed of after WW2.Were any recovered during the buliding of the industrial estate?

I cannot find any information to suggest that Albright & Wilson No 76 SIP grenades were destroyed at the site. The closure report states that the following devices were identified:

107 No. 62mm solid shot (practice) projectiles
1 No. 95mm solid shot (practice) projectile
1 No. 105mm solid shot (practice) projectile
52 No. master flare rockets.

We have no information on whether any No. 76 SIP grenades were found during the development of the industrial estate either.

4 Do you know if Albright and Wilson had a satellite waste disposal site in the area for the waste stream of their process operations at Kirkby,as they had at Oldbury and Portishead and where this was located and the current status of the site(s) now?

We have no information on whether or not Albright & Wilson had a satellite waste disposal site in the area.

5 Can you confirm the cause of “the catastrophic fire” at kirkby, and if this was linked to white phosphorus?

We have no information on the cause of the catastrophic fire at the Kirkby site.



  •  The request confirms that this site was contaminated by white phosphorus, the source being from The Albright and Wilson activities. Though p4 was not produced here, it was cleary used, and clearly was left behind being present when disturbed
  • This meant that it was further buried using concrete, presumably because it was deemed too expensive to move the contamination.
  • Spontaneous fires occurred as a result of p4 being exposed to air, but covering these over with soil was not really dealing with the issue at all.
  • A “catastrophic fire” closed the site at Kirkby.
  • This site has become an industrial warehouse site. No one lives there. It was deemed an acceptable risk to leave the contaminants in place. Would this risk have been taken if the site was going to be developed for housing? Who would want to buy a house on top of such a site?

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