We had asked for minutes of the CHaIRS group. These had been supplied but in heavily redacted form. They contained no reference to Rattlechain. We were told that the issue had been mentioned at the meetings, so were the references to the site in the redacted part of the minutes and why had the authority chosen to redact these sections? The following question is lengthy but contains in essence the story behind the posioning of wildfowl, so please read this carefully.
WHAT DID WE ASK?
(1) Can you confirm or deny if you have been given all of the information by the VLA that I have described about this incident, including the video evidence which I supplied them with? As I took the video, I am the intellectual property holder and therefore wish to know to whom my video has been forwarded. I hope that it has been forwarded to all the organisations within the CHaIrs group and I have no problem with any members of the public viewing it either as I believe it is in the public interest that its distressing
content is seen by as many people as possible.
(2) Can you confirm or deny that The Rattlechain Mere site incidents, and or white phosphorus poisoning of wildfowl on it and subsequent 2 positive tests carried out on a mute swan and Canada goose that have found white phosphorus within certain tissues
tested, has been redacted within the minutes or “final notes” of the information supplied to me previously?
(3) Confirm why it was deemed to be in the public interest to redact this information when this is not a food safety issue ?(unless people are eating wild birds that have died on this site).
(4) Why section 31 of the exemptions within the FoI Act have been sited for these redactions whereby “ongoing incidents where disclosure may prejudice the investigation”. Why would the disclosure of this specific information requested prejudice, or be
likely to cause prejudice?
(5)I am concerned that the “ongoing investigation” concerning Rattlechain Mere and birds suspected of dying from white phosphorus poisoning on it is NOT being conducted in any way satisfactorily by those organisations within the CHaIrs group, and therefore I have
no way of challenging this unless I have seen what this investigation has entailed. I cite the following reasons for this.
1. I am the source of the majority of reports of dead birds on the site.
2. The company who own the site , and not any independent organisation within the CHaIRS group are collecting some but not all of the carcasses after me telling them about them and taking them to VLA Shrewsbury(so this is a voluntary arrangement and
cannot be said to be following any scientific procedure or protocol) Consequently not all birds being found dead on the site are being “investigated” or post mortemed, or let alone tested for P4.
3. After VLA post mortem, only if they are satisfied that the birds did not die from any other likely cause, bird tissue samples are then collected by the private company who own the Rattlechain site for analysis at a laboratory to which they are an existing paying
client, and to which they recommended to the VLA could do the test for white phosphorus.
4.Delay in testing for white phosphorus is likely to destroy the evidence that is there as a result of oxidation.
5. Reports by the private laboratory are forwarded to the private company who then send them to the VLA for interpretation. So far this has happened only twice. How can this be called an “investigation” at all when it appears that the VLA are largely redundant in this whole exercise, and that the company involved are controlling the way in which information is being released?
It is therefore strongly in the public interest that this so called “investigation” can be scrutinised by them, when it seems that the only individuals that would be prejudiced, and caused acute embarrassment are those within the CHaIRS group on the ground who
10 years ago could not in any way draw any attention to this issue and that an amateur sleuth like myself has had to expose this issue and them?
WHY DID WE ASK THIS?
As mentioned in the request to the FSA
“I recently submitted a Freedom of information request in respect of the Work of The Chemical Hazard and Identification Risk Surveillance group, (CHaIRS). Whereas the information in ref. number 850 was answered by John Caseley,secretary of the group from the FSA, certain redactions were made within the minutes or “final notes” supplied to me under section 31 of the FoI Act.
My specific interest in obtaining these minutes is whether and what content they contained in respect of information related to Rattlechain Mere,Tividale West Midlands where large quantities of White phosphorus (P4) by weight exist in the soft sediment that can be accessed by birds landing on the open air pool and where wildfowl fatalities have been observed and reported to the relevant authorities, i.e the VLA and Environment Agency as well as the HSE.
I am the direct source of these reports, have forwarded video evidence to all of these authorities, supported by experts in the US military who have verified the contents as being consistent with white phosphorus poisoning clinical signs (and have gone on public
record as having stated this), and directed the VLA to research papers on this subject, where they stated they did not have the necessary technology or expertise to carry out white phosphorus related testing of carcasses.
Wildfowl deaths at this site were first reported by myself in 1999, yet there were no investigations at the time into the likely source of the deaths, i.e toxic white phosphorus, despite the contents of the pool being known to Environment Agency officers and managers in Pollution Prevention and Control.
I was told by staff in writing at the VLA that this issue had been raised at the CHaIRS group, yet when I have queried in my previous request minutes of the meetings, can find no trace of this incident within them. Consequently I am therefore seeking the following
information under the Freedom of Information Act.”
WHAT DID THEY KNOW?
part 1 question answered here
“The Rattlechain investigation is being led by the Environment Agency and has involved a multi-Agency response, including the VLA and Health and Safety Executive. The Food Standards Agency has not been actively involved in the investigation, as there appear to be no food safety implications in this instance.
As the investigation requires a multi-Agency joined up response, it was considered beneficial to share information about the investigation within the CHaIRS Group. The information shared within CHaIRS has not included any of the video or other evidence you refer to in your e-mail.
As explained In Rosemary’s letter, while CHaIRS was set up as a forum to share information regarding chemical contamination incidents, it does not displace or alter the remits of the participating organisations in relation to investigation and enforcement. Consequently, if you have any concerns regarding any aspect of this ongoing investigation, then we suggest that these should be addressed to the body leading this investigation, which is the Environment Agency (EA). The EA’s contact details are available at:
The remaining questions you have raised will be handled by Rosemary as a request for internal review of the handling of your earlier FOI request.”
The internal review response was a major revelation concerning this site.
Unredacted minutes concerning Rattlechain were provided.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
The internal review was a major success. A great deal of background was revealed which we discuss at length here. By far the most inportant statement came from the Chairman of the group (from the FSA), in the minutes from December 9th.
“5. The Chair commented that as P4 probably caused the death of the swan the investigation confirms current environmental contamination with P4 and suggests the levels of contamination in or around the lagoon could poison wildlife or humans. MB confirmed that HSE had inspected the site and advised Rhodia about security there. It was agreed that members were effectively joined up regarding this case, however if any further incidents or changes arise then the matter should he discussed again by the CHaIRS group.”
This statement, and its public posting on the Whatdotheyknow website is what prompted Rhodia to undertake their Human Health risk assessment.
We also put in a follow up request to the HSE based upon the statement made here about a site inspection.