“Prophecy is fortunately no function of an industrialist, and we must leave the event to our historian’s successor.”
Sydney Barratt, former Chairman of ALBRIGHT AND WILSON.
There are many stories and anecdotes surrounding the local history of this site, some of which have been retold to us over the years, and are consistently similar in description. In order to build a permanent record of what occurred on the site, so that its history as a waste disposal site will not be swept under the carpet, we want to know of your memories.
- Did you used to play around this unfenced marlhole as a child?
- Do you recall seeing waste being disposed of into the lagoon either by canal barge or road tanker?
- Did you used to work for Albright and Wilson or Rhodia and have inside knowledge of what was being disposed of here- or what were you told about the waste being disposed of here by works management?
- Do you have any old photographs of the site or canals around it?
- Do you remember pollution along the canals- especially around the Trinity Street area or Dudley Port?
- Did you ever see any dead birds in or around the area that appeared suddenly?
- Anything considered about Albright and Wilson’s other toxic waste sites in the Whitehaven, Widnes or Bristol areas.
I have discovered eye witnesses who have seen dead birds on or around the Rattlechain lagoon prior to 1999.
Local man Robert Adams recalls an Albright and Wilson employee or tanker driver using a net to retrieve dead bird carcasses from the pool in the early 1990’s. Mr Adams received a non committal response when he asked what had killed them.
James Price’s recollection goes back further and confirms the way in which waste was still being delivered by canal barge in 1969. Given the number of dead passerine species (perching birds, or songbirds) he recalls seeing, and the known low water levels and higher (and unquantified) levels of white phosphorus in the waste, it is hard to believe that wildlife was not being poisoned by white phosphorus spillages in the area. Men were transporting waste using a wheelbarrow bouncing up and down on planks. This material must have got everywhere!
This is his statement –
“After serving fifteen years in the army with the light infantry, my first job in 1969 was with the London steel works at Tividale. I worked a three shift system, 6-2, 2-10 and 10-6. I used to walk to work using the canal and by the tunnel, that’s the one nearest Dudley Port.
One day about 5.45am in the summer of 1969, I noticed two dead birds near the tunnel entrance. As I went further along the path level with the marl hole (clay pit), the whole path was littered with dead birds of all types. But as I was near the filter beds on the left of the path a bit further along just a couple of birds dead and nothing after that.
I saw dead birds many times after that but not as many as the first time I had seen them.
One day I ended my night shift at 5.45am, and as I walked along the canal towards Oldbury, I came level with the marl hole. There were two men using a pump and large hose, pumping what I recognised as a liquid substance of Phosphorus out of a large steel barge. During the summer I often saw them pumping the substance down into the marl hole, always early in the morning.
I had seen phosphorus on Salisbury Plain during army manoeuvres, when they used the mortar shells. So that is my conclusion why the birds died. They would have used the marl hole when the water was just rain water as all clay pits fill up when not in use. But when they used it after the phosphorus was put in, they would be poisoned and die very soon. Phosphorus burns like hell.“