SMBC REQ 7 Radioactive nuclides

radioactive nuclides at Albright and Wilson’s Gower and Rattlechain tips

BACKGROUND

This is the third in a series of requests concerning Albright and Wilson’s Gower Tip, and the rather vague description of radioactive material that was acknowledged to have been deposited at the site. We also threw in Rattlechain given the also rather dubious monitoring for radioactive waste, (associated with phosphorus production, and who knows what else given the military supply history of this company during both World wars).n.b  there was no monitoring for radioactive material carried out for the HPA human health risk assessment, nor we believe for the works which were undertaken at the site in 2103.

WHAT DID WE ASK AND WHAT DID THEY KNOW?

We asked the following questions, which received an extremely brief response from the council’s Head of Environmental Protection Richard Norton- who was also asked to sit on the Rattlechain steering group by Sandwell PCT/HPA.

(i) Can you identify what type and quantity of radioactive waste was found and removed from the Gower tip site,Tividale formerly owned by Albright and Wilson and now Rhodia before or after the site license expired in 1994? The environment agency have stated in
a previous FOI request  “We do not know if Sandwell Council have any knowledge of the event referred to and would advise you to contact them directly for the information you require.”

(ii) Can you confirm that independent tests have been conducted on this site for the alpha emitter Polonium-210 and the beta emitter Lead-210, radionuclides present in phosphate ore which are enriched by the process of elemental phosphorus production, which took place at the Oldbury site where waste containing dusts was generated, and also found in several other waste tips associated with this process in many countries?
Can you give results of these tests in Bq/g?
(iii) Given that according to the Environment Agency Sandwell council were made aware of “radioactive wastes” contained at the site, have you ever informed local residents about it?

“I refer to the Environment Agency’s reply to you dated the 29th  November 2010 (reference MC20591) in respect of the Gower Tip and can advise the Council does not hold any additional information in respect of Questions 1, 2 or 3.”

(iv) A previous request to the council stated “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.”
Are you certain and can prove that Polonium-210 and Lead-210 are not present at this site without having carried out an investigation and given that there are people now living yards from this site in newly built homes?

“The site has been assessed in accordance with the Council’s Contaminated Land Inspection Strategy. The position of the site within the Inspection Strategy has been assessed with consideration to the potential risk posed by the site, its environmental status and its locale.”

(v) Concerning Rattlechain, the flawed Cremer and Warner report of 1990 only conducted a gamma emitter survey for radioactivity, therefore conveniently for the then site owners with absolutely no chance of identifying either Polonium-210 or Lead-210. At what stage, given that this site still has a site licence would you expect to carry out such a survey, given that there are also people living next to this site which still has yet to be remediated?

“May I redirect you to the Environment Agency, which currently regulates the Rattlechain Tip under the Environmental Permitting Regulations.”

As these replies to the questions were meaningless, we asked for an independent review.

Unfortunately, this offered more of the same waffle as before, and the implied threat that no more questions would be answered on the subject of the Rhodia owned sites.

“Findings

I have noticed that you have submitted this (and previous requests on similar issues) under the provisions of both the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR)……….

My response has referred to the fact that the FOIA and EIR entitle you to request recorded information held by the Council. Such requests can be submitted by email and you are therefore perfectly entitled to submit further FOI requests via www.whatdotheyknow.com.

 However, the Council is not obliged under either the FOIA or EIR to provide clarification on issues, justify decisions taken or to respond to general concerns that might be raised by individuals via this website.

That is not to say that the Council will not respond to requests of this nature, but it is not statutorily obliged to under the FOIA or EIR and is therefore not obliged to respond via the www.whatdotheyknow.com website.

 For this reason, I would be grateful if, in future, you would submit general enquiries or requests for the Council to justify actions taken etc with regard to the Gower Tip and Rattlechain Tip/Lagoon to:

 Richard Norton

Environmental Protection Manager

PO Box 42

Environment House

Lombard Street”

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

This series of three requests shows the problems of how businesses that operated with little environmental scrutiny in the past were allowed to bury and dispose of sites on the cheap without real scrutiny as to what lay beneath them- a problem which will continue to haunt those who live and work around them for decades to come. As authorities pass the buck between one another, change their names and officers retire, so the history will become even more murky unless there is effort to ascertain the truth.

For those who have handled the waste deposited, they may well not make the link between what they were misled by their employer as to being “harmless” material.

As the following Netherlands based study below alludes from Rhodia/Solvays associate phosphorus based producer Thermphos- radioactivity associated with phosphorus production can be harmful to human health. We seriously doubt if Albright and Wilson given what we know of their past history for asbestos and phosphorus necrosis took the matter of this exposure in their workers seriously. We wonder to what lengths other agencies will go to to cover up this companies woeful protection of its workers and neighbours. Blanking freedom of information requests as “vexatious” is a rather good way of exposing those who fail in their jobs.

 

“Besides the products, about 1000 ton  per year of calcined waste is produced, which contains large amounts of heavy metals as well as well as lead-210 and polonium-210 in concentrations upto 1000 bq/g.”

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