Having learned that Rhodia were “commissioning a human health risk assessment study” as a direct result of information being made public from one of our freedom of information requests, we wished to find out more about this study. At the same time that this request had been filed, I was “invited to present” (whatever that means) at the first meeting of “The Rattlechain human health risk assessment project group.” This group consisted of a self elected chair who had been approached by the HPA to allegedly guarantee its independence. What they failed to submit was that Dr Patrick Saunders formerly worked for the HPA less than two years previously prior to joining Sandwell PCT. See page 7 of this HPA document , his name next to Andew Kibbles’s.
He also had worked in the same division as Andrew Kibble being his line manager, with Kibble his deputy at the chemical and poisons division Birmingham- based in the public health building at Albright and Wilson collaborators THE UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM. See page 3 of the document below.
I presented this information to the group meeting and it became quickly clear that I had been invited merely to see what I knew about the site so that they could try to work around this. They did not see this close relationship as an issue concerning “independence”.
The minutes of this meeting were partially recorded on tape (which was only revealed after about 1 hour had passed). A disc recording was eventually supplied to me after I had asked for it to be made available. I queried several points recorded in the minutes and ommissions which were later added to the final minutes. These can be read below and my changes are in red. As can be seen, the record made is much enhanced- “with the benefit of the tape.”
WHAT DID WE ASK AND WHAT DID THEY KNOW?
A number of questions were asked concerning the proposed study to try to flesh out the details. This reply supplied by the HPA can be read HERE.
- Regarding the proposed human health impact study of Rattlechain Lagoon, John’s Lane Tividale West Midlands, can I ask if Rhodia the site owners, will be paying the HPA to undertake this study, either in part or in full, and if not then from where will the costs be.
“As discussed in the recent steering group meeting on the 27th June 2011, that you attended, the costs of the project are being met in full by the site owners, Rhodia. The meeting notes and presentation will be made available to all those who attended that meeting in due course.”
- What is the term of reference for Rhodia “commissioning” the HPA to undertake this study?
“We are unclear what you are referring to with ‘term of reference for Rhodia “commissioning” the HPA’. We believe you are referring to the scope of work Rhodia asked the HPA to undertake, which was to undertake a human health risk assessment of Rattlechain Lagoon based on the current use of the site. This was also discussed in detail at the recent steering group meeting.
The HPA will examine all plausible pollutant linkages to determine whether there is a possibility of phosphorous waste within the Rattlechain Lagoon impacting on the health of adjacent residents. This was also discussed in detail at the recent steering group meeting.
As we have advised previously, the results of the study will be made publicly available on completion of the study, and this will include a full description of the terms of the study.”
- Have the HPA written to all stake holders involved in this site, including residents, regarding the study and proposed “steering group” overseeing this project and have they ALL been informed or invited to air their concerns at future steering group meetings, or is this also being left to Rhodia?
The approach for communicating the results to stakeholders was discussed in detail at the recent steering group meeting. As you are aware representatives from the stakeholder groups which would have an interest in a human health risk assessment study of the Rattlechain Lagoon were invited to the steering group meeting by Dr Patrick Saunders, Associate Director of Public Health for Sandwell Primary Care Trust who has been invited to independently review the human health risk assessment.
He suggested that it would also be useful to establish a project group to facilitate the project running to time and develop an appropriate communication strategy for disseminating the findings of the assessment. Dr Saunders offered to chair the group and has invited key partners to form the group namely the HPA, the local authority, the Environment Agency, Rhodia and a local resident. The terms of reference and membership were circulated to the members and yourself on 23rd June 2011 and were agreed at the first meeting on 27th June 2011. The group will invite other relevant agencies/persons if required on specific issues although it is anticipated that the group will only meet three times in total.”
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
The “independent” role of Dr Saunders in this exercise was nothing of the sort. His appointment to head this “steering group” by Andrew Kibble was a sign of where this study was heading from from day one of the PR exercise that it was for Rhodia. An iniative that has at its roots a close relationship with a university which is joined at its hip is further insidious, as was Saunders’ initiative to invite some of the key figures of incompetence in the disastrous regulation of the site’s history to join the group as “experts” adding further salt in the wounds.
Though we do not question his environmental health background and expertise, Dr Saunders is not a doctor of medicine nor a GP, and this could be misconstrued by the public given his position in the Primary Care Trust.
The use of former employees of Government organisations by these Government organisations, which may appear at first impression to be informative is not a boon but a means by which they can manipulate their message in the public realm using crowd psychology by making it appear as though someone else is advocating their work and peer reviewing it positively. This is how people in these fields of work advance their careers. This is how industry manipulates the public by being “linked in” to a network of shilling to spread its PR spin.
The use of a local resident is also striking given the desire to attempt to use them as the mouthpiece to spread the rest of the group’s message, only for the instigators of the report to then take an anonymous mute role. The use of a “mark” to spread the word is another tool used by Industry to get its message across to people who will be more likely to “swallow it” if it comes from one of their own peer group. Conformity can be dangerously used. I was not invited to the subsequent meetings. I do not conform.