The Gower Tip was another former Albright and Wilson waste disposal tip located near to Rattlechain lagoon along the Old Mainline canal. It was operational like Rattlechain long before any licensing regime came into existence (from 1938), and waste was also transported there by canal barge prior to 1970. Sandwell council were a former waste regulatory authority and have legal obligations to inspect land that may be contaminated. The picture below shows its location- the overgrown tree area in the middle. A housing development, like Rattlechain is now adjacent to part of the site. This site at Brades Rise was designated as “contaminated land” by Sandwell Council. See case_4
WHAT DID WE ASK AND WHAT DID THEY KNOW?
1 Can you provide me with a map of the location of this site?
2. A copy of the full waste disposal licence and the consents to dispose of waste on the site, and what this waste was and the allowed quantities.
3. The known periods when waste tipping occured at the site and when the site was considered “closed”.
4. Confirmation that the site is designated as “contaminated land” and the reasons for this decision?
4. How the site was remediated, if at all?
The council initially delayed answering the request but eventually responded.
“Please find attached a copy of all information that the Council holds in regards to the Gower Tip. I can confirm that the Council does not hold a copy of the waste disposal licence SL54. And I can confirm that the Council has not inspected the site under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, made a determination of contaminated land or served remediation notice.
The attached map is based on ordnance survey material and therefore subject to Crown Copyright.”
This map can be viewed HERE. and answers question 2.
They also supplied a landfill data sheet compiled by the environmental health departments’s contaminated Land team “last updated on: 15/11/01.” This stated that this was related to “landfill gas” rather than the council’s requirements under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
This sheet states that the licence was “Surrendered (19thApril 1994)”
“Type of fill:
Licence permitted the deposit of dry waste from inorganic chemical manufacture, including building rubble contaminated with asbestos, packaging contaminated with sodium hydroxide and inert waste for use as cover material .”
We were not happy with the council’s answer and sought further clarification.
“Could I ask if you have not got a copy of the waste disposal licence then how are you able to quote the waste disposal license number, which according to my information is not the site licence number for this site in any case? (WHICH IS SL32)
Given that there is no longer a waste disposal licence in operation why have the council not made a determination under part 2(a) of the EPA 1990?”
The council responded and offered a little bit more information than it previously admitted to holding.
“You have also sought some clarification with regard to the Council’s response. In particular, you have queried why the Council does not hold the licence.
I have spoken to my colleagues in Environmental Protection and they have now been able to locate the original Waste Management Licence issued by the former West Midlands County Council to Albright and Wilson in respect of the Gower Tip at Lower City Road, Tividale, together with copies of three amendments. They have also been able to confirm that the reference to the original licence (SL54) was incorrect as the original licence was issued as SL32. The Council understands that this site is also known by the Environment Agency as EAWML 40803.
Please accept my apologies for the fact that this information was not provided in the original response which was, again, a genuine oversight.
Unfortunately, the records of this site are incomplete and the map defining the site boundary is missing from the original licence document dated 6 April 1978. However, the area was redefined in Amendment No.2 which took effect in August 1979. Unfortunately, a signed and dated copy of that amendment has not survived. The licence was surrendered on 22 April 1994 and cancelled with effect from that date.
With regard to the determination of the land under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, this provision requires Local Authorities to inspect their land for any contamination causing unacceptable risks to human health and the wider environment in respect of its current use. The Council published its inspection strategy in 2001 setting out the principles underlying its approach to inspection in accordance with the requirements of the 1990 Act and statutory guidance contained in Circular 01/2006.
The Council has taken a risk based approach to inspection, aiming to identify and deal with the worst areas of land in the first instance. As part of the prioritisation process, the Gower Tip has been assessed in accordance with the approach contained in the Prioritisation and Categorisation Procedure for Sites that may be contaminated. The Gower Tip has been assigned an inspection priority category of 3, i.e. contaminants may be present but are unlikely to have an unacceptable impact on key targets. The site has yet to be inspected under the strategy and therefore no determination has been made in respect of its condition; it is therefore not possible to say at this stage when this site will be subject to a more detailed investigation.”
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
“This information is based on that currently available to the Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, but may have been collated from a number of sources of varying reliability. The Council is not able to offer any warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of the information provided, and cannot accept any liability for loss or damage arising from the use of the information, except where such loss or damage is due to the Council’s negligence.”
Licence SL32 allowed the following to be disposed into the landfill.
Phosphorus pentasulphide 30tons/year
Phosphorus sesquisulphide 2 tons/year
Dross from limestone mixed with small quantities of calcium phosphate 10 tons/year
Sodium carbonate mixed with small quantities of sodium phosphate 5 tons/year
Building rubble and lagging contaminated with asbestos 5 tons/year
Paper packaging contaminated with sodium hydroxide or sodium carbonate or lime or trace quantities of other materials of similar toxicity 15 tons/year
*Inert waste for use as cover 700 tons/year
Research by swanwatch has revealed significantly more information than the council claim to hold about the site, a worrying development given that as with Rattlechain houses have now been recently built on the edge of the site. From minutes of The West Midlands County council Waste disposal and pollution control committee December 1977 the following information is given.
This site is a former clay marl hole which has been used as an industrial tip since 1938. The site has received large quantities of toxic and hazardous waste since this time. These are mostly comprised of various compounds of phosphorus together with some radio-active wastes, laboratory chemicals, solvents e.t.c. The site represents the major disposal outlet for the Company’s waste phosphorus pentasulphide and phosphorus susquisulphide.
These waste arisings are the main problem associated with this site since they are highly reactive especially with water. “
New housing development below Albright and Wilson’s Gower Tip.