Part two


(deuxième  partie – BAD SCIENCE AND PR FICTION)



The response to the first positive white phosphorus test in a dead swan was a major blow for Rhodia but their reaction was typical of the company.

P4 test letter 230909  shows the letter which was sent out to myself, residents who had attended a meeting, Adrian Bailey MP as well as others. Dripping with spin it fails totally to mention the crucial involvement Swan Watch has played in the whole exercise, and how their previous tapestry of lies was unwoven by us-BASED ON THE SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE THAT THESE SCIENTISTS WERE TRYING TO CONCEAL.

A number of misleading statements are made in this letter, the accent appears to be pandering towards residents concerns. Their intention is obviously to try and play us off against the residents with the policy of divide and conquer.

Choice of diction-” local residents” is used several times to try to convey that Rhodia are on their side. The letter text is shown in blue with the reality in black.

Paragraph 1

“Results of phosphorus test on dead swan found on Rattlechain lagoon

As you know, Rhodia has long been aware of the concern for the health of wild birds living on Rattlechain lagoon.  Although the vast majority of the birds seem to thrive when from time to time a dead bird (usually a swan) has been found dead on the lagoon we have systemically sent the remains for an independent post mortem.  These investigations have not previously shown any link with the waste deposited in the lagoon, which mainly consists of calcium phosphate slurry.”

  • The vast majority of birds on the pool can reach the sediment in shallow parts of the lake, i.e main species are mute swan, coot, moorhen, mallards, Canada geese, tufted ducks, goosander and cormorants as well as several gull species. Birds may well appear to “thrive” until they ingest the sediment; then they will die.
  • Only Rhodia know the depths of the pool and consistency of the sediment, which they outlined at the meeting on 24/9/09. They have not and are not issuing this bathymetric report to anyone- WHY?
  •  They have not “systematically sent” birds for post mortem, the majority of birds found dead on the pool in the last 10 years have remained as carcasses on the pool.
  • The majority of post mortemed birds have been collected by DEFRA officials as part of the avian influenza surveillance scheme, or forwarded from swan rescue on death. Rhodia have been contacted about some dead birds on the pool but have not “systematically” retrieved them. It may not be practical for them to collect every dead bird where a boat would be required, which they do possess but this statement is a lie.
  • The investigations  never tested any bird for white phosphorus prior to this. This was the 1st and this was a positive test result. The VLA cannot test for white phosphorus, and have no experience of white phosphorus poisoned birds, with the Rattlechain being a unique liquid white phosphorus landfill site in the UK. If this test had been done  in 1999 when Rhodia had the opportunity to tell them about the existence of WP in this pool and if the Environment Agency had bothered to investigate this matter with any sincerity, then a link would have been made much sooner. Information about white phosphorus poisoning in wildfowl has been published on the internet since 1997, THEY HAVE NO EXCUSES.


  • The only reason a link has been made now at all is because Swanwatch made it without any “expert” help except from scientists involved at the Eagle River Flats site who have viewed footage of ailing rattlechain birds to be consistent with white phosphorus poisoned birds. Rhodia did not volunteer the information about the toxicity to wildfowl or anything else to anyone, WE DID. That is because Rhodia have always wanted to conceal the truth about what lies in their toxic rat poison lagoon which is mixed in with Calcium phosphate slurry.

Paragraph 2

“The autopsy on the most recent dead swan proved once again to be inconclusive. However, given our long-standing discussions with the local community and once Rhodia became aware of the availability of a specific test for white phosphorus in wildfowl, we commissioned a specialist independent laboratory to undertake such a test on this swan’s remains.   The aim of the test was to establish the level of phosphorus residues present in the bird – and whether it could be concluded that this was a possible cause of death in this instance.  Phosphorus waste is also present in the lagoon, although in far less quantity (an estimated 0.01% of the total waste).”


  • An inconclusive post mortem was found because they had not tested for white phosphorus, and confirms that the bird did not die from anything else. Rhodia have been aware of a white phosphorus test for years and have the technology at their own Langley factory to carry this out- how do they analyse sediment samples otherwise? Gas chromatography measures white phosphorus in whatever sample you put in for analysis.
  • Harlan was recommended by Rhodia and so they are an existing paying client. Once again Rhodia try to mislead people using a percentage of the overall waste analogy to make it look like a tiny amount, there are tens of tonnes of white phosphorus in this lake and birds do not need to consume the entire waste in the pool to die, milligrams will do the trick!


Paragraph 3

“The enclosed report provides the full details of the test results which confirm the presence of phosphorus in the swan.  Although this result does not prove that the swan died of phosphorus poisoning (as the amount detected is very small), Rhodia, as a responsible company, has decided to take a number of actions to reduce as far as possible any possible direct impact on the health of wild birds living at the lagoon.” 

  • The crucial result is denied by Rhodia as being “proof” that it killed the swan. This is their interpretation, the Harlan report states no conclusions what so ever about this, but only gives the result of 14.8mg of white phosphorus being found in 1kg of “gizzard tissue”.  Rhodia have made conclusions from this report- not Harlan laboratories.  With slight of hand, Rhodia has tried to link this “specialist independent laboratory” to their own conclusion.
  • A “ small amount” is enough to kill anything which ingests it!
  • Would “a responsible” company ever have dumped this toxic rat poison under water in an open air site? Albright and Wilson  used this satellite waste dump at their convenience to reduce costs. Rhodia inherited their dire environmental record, but are obviously built in the same mould.


“Actions taken

We accelerated the work underway with a leading environmental consultancy which has been examining a number of options to deter birds from the lagoon and prevent them from ingesting any waste near the surface – while taking into account the wishes of local residents in terms of visual impact.”


  • Rhodia have to submit a closure plan to the EA in order to surrender their licence. This work was being done anyway for this purpose.
  • The residents are also “victims.”There are 14 properties which overlook the lagoon, none with a ground floor view of the pool or from gardens, with the 10′ fence being put there as a screen. Some houses had a completely obscured view with trees in the way which have now been all cut down. Do residents want to look out onto this toxic lagoon?  Their view will remain the  unsightly permanent features of a razor wire fence and discharge pump upto the canal until the site is closed when it is deemed to be no longer a hazard for the public to access it.  The EPA American website estimate it can take up to 10,000 years for White phosphorus to completely oxidise in lakes such as this. The resident’s obvious main concern is house prices that they have paid for and not being able to sell their properties. If the site is never remediated properly, solicitors who are doing their job properly will always find this toxic lagoon in land searches, whatever “visual” appearance it has to potential adjoining house buyers.

“We have short listed two potential solutions:

1.The first is a heavy duty geotextile membrane laid on top of the waste but underneath the surface of the water.  This would act as a solid barrier between any birds landing on the water and the waste in the lagoon to break any potential direct link between the two.”

  • The removal of the long waste pipe and the pontoons on which it sits was  entirely to try to remove visual evidence of the pools past use, whilst at the same time trying to look like they are doing something.
  • URS Rhodia’s then consultants had no experience of doing this type of operation and neither do their current ones ERM.
  • This is not the proposed recommended method of dealing with this problem by experts at Eagle River Flats who are familiar with white phosphorus remediated pools unlike The Environment Agency who have no experience at all.

Marianne Walsh-  “ Rhodia really should consider treating the sediment to remove the white phosphorus. Capping should be used when all other option are exhausted.” 

  • “2. The second possible solution would be to cover the lagoon with “bird balls” – these are hollow plastic balls which would automatically arrange themselves into a close packed formation to completely cover the surface of the lagoon. In this way, the water would be camouflaged preventing birds from seeing the lagoon and therefore landing on it. “


  • The bird ball idea is a foil which Rhodia know the local residents may not like because of “visual impact” to use Rhodia’s own phrase.  Balls could be removed at short notice and much easier convenience, unlike the mat capping which would be virtually impossible- a point which Rhodia are obviously are aware. The use of these balls can be found here.


  •  “In preparation for the installation of either the membrane or the bird balls, an in-depth underwater survey of the lagoon has been undertaken to map the precise location of the waste and its characteristics (depth, density, etc.). Local residents may well have seen the work taking place in recent weeks together with the technical equipment (mobile crane, etc.) involved in such a complex operation. This work was completed on September 11.”


  • The white phosphorus covering is not a viable long term option, though Rhodia will use it as a future excuse to not remediate the pool- They know there would be cogent environmental objections to ripping up the carpet because it would generate “flour” from the mixing bowl up to the surface to poison birds. They would also make a statement along the lines of ‘ which do you prefer disturbing the sediment or keeping it covered?’

OUR preference is that they remediate the pool to remove the white phosphorus and the direct link altogether as experts have recommended. How they do it safely is going to cost them much more money than covering it up.

  • What is Rhodia’s “end game” for the pool? It is worth pointing out that the more houses that are built around this site, the more difficult it would be to remediate the pool safely in this way. Now they no longer need the site as a trash can, Rhodia do not want to empty the rubbish. They would no doubt welcome a ring of houses around the pool of this toxic doughnut.
  • It is obvious that Rhodia had known about the results of the white phosphorus test for some time given the timing of this study 11/9.


 “Next steps

With the information that we now have following the survey of the lagoon, we wish of course to progress a final decision on the best option to be taken.  This requires consultation with the Environment Agency (EA), our regulatory authority, which remains supportive of Rhodia’s management of Rattlechain, as well as experts from within the company. We hope such a decision will be taken at the earliest possible date to allow implementation of the chosen solution in 2010.”

We asked for this report, it would appear to have been refused based upon Tom Dutton’s email reply. Of course the EA as well as Rhodia want a quick fix solution to this problem. Rhodia have only shown attention to this issue because swan watch has drawn their attention to it. They have not been open with us- in 2001 they never said anything about white phosphorus or its toxic effects.  Let us see the report on sediment analysis and contour of the pool if they have nothing to hide.

“Rhodia takes its environmental responsibilities extremely seriously, as shown by the attention we have shown to this issue and the investments we have made – and will continue to make – in ensuring the safe operation and environmental integrity of the Rattlechain.  We have always been open with local stakeholders and commit to continuing cooperation and dialogue with you all.

If you have any questions about the works underway or the technical details of the enclosed report, or indeed any other issues please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely

Dr Tom Dutton

HSE Director, Rhodia UK Ltd”

We contacted Tom Dutton who said in his e-mail letter “if you have any questions about the works underway or the technical details of the enclosed report, or indeed any other issues please do not hesitate to contact me.”

By e-mail we asked him for his interpretation of the first Harlan Report and also 2 further queries.

“2. Could you let me have a copy of the report/map of the sediment contours and consistency of the recent on site investigation at the pool?

3. Could you send me draft minutes of the meeting of 24/9/09 for my comments to agree on a final draft set, as is standard business practice?


Ian Carroll”

This is his reply



 2 We have talked through the main conclusions from this report with you.

3 As you will have noticed I did not make any notes during our meeting and so it is not possible for me to produce minutes of the meeting. I was also not asked to prepare minutes during the meeting.  

 I will continue to update you with progress on this matter. Rest assured we are trying to co-operate with all interested parties to find a way forward but some of your questions seem to me to be attempts to catch us out and I am uncomfortable with this.   

 Regards Tom”

The minutes of the meeting of 24/9/09 refered to can be found here.

From these statements it hardly seems that Rhodia is interested in “cooperation and dialogue “ if it involves them answering questions which they find “uncomfortable”.

The whole purpose of asking questions is to obtain information which is not known by the questioner. Rhodia appear to want to keep their answers under lock and key.

A subsequent test for white phosphorus involving a goose produced the following letter.

P4 test Dec_09

Despite the finding of white phosphorus in a second species, Rhodia originally sent out a letter with the Harlan report which tried to present the amount found in a completely misleading way. This “draft” letter, complete with formatting changes of those who had entered them was inadvertently sent out by email with the attached report. Chronology of events confirm that Rhodia had tried to bluff their way through the fact that white phosphorus had again been found, but HAD to change this on receipt of the VLA opinion that the bird had “probably” died from white phosphorus poisoning. The letter was almost exclusively written by B. Miles- Rhodia PR and I Rowley- possibly a Rhodia legal adviser. Below is the letter that I and others received, complete with the changes which were undertaken after the VLA opinion had been received by them.


And so the bad science and the PR spin form the second link in the chain in the manner that Rhodia dealt with this issue. They were “caught out”.



We looked at the clues and solved the mystery. IT WAS HARDLY ROCKET SCIENCE.




“I don’t believe it , it’s the HSE guy.”
“and we would have got away with it too it it wasn’t for those damned pesky swanwatchers.”

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