The closure plan originally submitted by Rhodia in 2006 was rewritten purposefully as part of the legal requirement to officially “close the site” by March 2014.

A freedom of information request revealed these rewritten documents. Comments from John Davis of the Environment agency (Technical specialist groundwater), were submitted against the original plan, as revealed in emails related to the closure plan for the site and its adequacy.


There are many facets of this original plan which were obviously not detailed enough, but which had largely lain dormant since 2006 until the regulator considered it prudent to incorporate additional monitoring. This really only highlights their lack of Environmental management monitoring  over a long period of time which is why the site is where it is today.

Also updated were the stability risk assessment and the hydrogeological risk assessment, written by environmental contractors URS, with the former appearing to be hastily rewritten in April 2013, when works at the site to lay the geotextile had begun. It is fairly obvious that as the original scheme for the site did not encorporate any reprofiling of the Northern embankment (this was not at any time suggested would happen at the “public exhibition” in January of that year), that the original URS document could not be relied upon at all about the failing stability of this slope. Allied to this however is the real issue behind why this work was chosen to be carried out- the contamination of the North embankment from historic waste dumping from canal boats, as well as whatever other materials were tipped unofficially by British Waterways before site licensing. A site still viewed as “contaminated” cannot be sold off after all. Works on this slope had nothing to do with “protecting wildfowl”, this was about protecting Solvay from corporate risk. We will look at the rewritten slope stability report below.

The comments of  John Davis

These were originally written dated 8th January 2013, and updated after the works were drawing to a close on 9th October 2013. They review adequacy of the original and ammended documents but “limited to the operational work area of the Groundwater and Contaminated Land Team.” A meeting took place on 8th May 2013 at Trinity Street between Rhodia, the environment agency and the environmental contractors URS. Notes of this meeting can be read below.


In blue below we show what was agreed at this meeting and the agreed actions that were included in John Davis’ comments.  These actions were then supposedly added to the updated p44 rattlechain site procedures, by now in its 14th version.

  • Groundwater Monitoring frequency


“Agreed – annual frequency for groundwater (shallow and deep BH’s), lagoon water and discharge.


Monitoring procedures are incorporated in to a Rhodia Ltd operational document; “RHODIA LIMITED OLDBURY SITE. HSE PROCEDURE P44. Rattlechain Landfill Site Management Procedures”

All locations, Canal discharge, u/s & d/s of canal, lagoon water and 6 groundwater boreholes are to be sampled on 6 monthly basis. Which exceeds EA minimum requirements, so accepted – 09/10/2013.


  •  Groundwater Monitoring Suite

Elemental phosphorus is recommended (a bit bloody late!), and also benzene based on the fact that it was found where previously it had not been considered. We assert the presence of this chemical to the contents of AW bombs, though the EA are keen to try to play this down. Well they would wouldn’t they as a UK Government agency, covering up a UK Government agency agent’s war work that could have a detrimental effect on human health.

“Agreed – suite in ESID report will be adopted. Benzene also to be added – see note below


“Monitoring procedures are incorporated in to a Rhodia Ltd operational document; “RHODIA LIMITED OLDBURY SITE. HSE PROCEDURE P44. Rattlechain Landfill Site Management Procedures”. The monitoring suite discussed and agreed has been incorporated in to this document. Accepted -09/10/2013.”


  • Groundwater Monitoring Infrastructure

 There is the statement made that Rhodia should proove the structure of the present boreholes. As it was borehole BH5, (the one which it is claimed monitors the mysterious unproven offsite source of pollution),  had not been monitored since 2007. This is stated in the revised hydrogeological risk assessment by URS on page 15. (see below).

“Agreed – boreholes will be investigated and report produced including any proposals for replacement/maintenance.

Monitoring procedures are incorporated in to a Rhodia Ltd operational document; “RHODIA LIMITED OLDBURY SITE. HSE PROCEDURE P44. Rattlechain Landfill Site Management Procedures”. Table 1 in this report confirms the total depth of these boreholes and has provided separately geological logs and construction details for all boreholes. Confirming the minimum requirement of 3 in each system and their current functionality. Accepted – 09/10/2013.”

  • Groundwater Control and Trigger Levels

“I would recommend that SO4, Ni, Zn, P2O5 are added to the list of C&T Levels as they are all shown to be present at detectable concentrations within the lagoon water

(ref 2). Also recommend that Pb and Mn are removed as there is no evidence of these contaminants being present at significantly elevated concentration in lagoon water and are likely to be associated with an historic or off-site source.”



“Agreed – list of C&T levels to be amended as above. In addition benzene is to be added to analytical suites as it has been detected up to 0.23 ug/l on occasions. Benzene will also be added to C&T list initially as a precautionary and inclusive measure (resulting from rumoured early disposal at the site pre-dating disposal licensing).”


There is a long contemplation on Rhodia’s methods of monitoring control and trigger levels. The over complication of this discussion makes it possible for the site opearator to control what results are reported, insomuch as they could take corrective action before reporting a serious breach. In practice this would probably be adding chemicals to correct what the company did not want to report as being “triggered.”


Surface Water

There is reference to the River Tame but monitoring of this tributory is ignored. Given that this watercourse is below the lagoon level, the integrity of the ground between the sewer system in John’s Lane never appears to be considered. The entire structure of the Western bank is entirely manmade when this ground was raised in the 1970’s.

“Agreed that only the canal discharge will be sampled, same suite as groundwater plus D.O., TSS & Temperature, as above. EA monitor u/s & d/s of discharge.

Monitoring procedures are incorporated in to a Rhodia Ltd operational document; “RHODIA LIMITED OLDBURY SITE. HSE PROCEDURE P44. Rattlechain Landfill Site Management Procedures”. The Canal discharge and monitoring points 50 m u/s & d/s of canal discharge are to be sampled on 6 monthly basis. Which meets EA minimum requirements, so accepted – 09/10/2013

  •  Leachate

“I would recommend that lagoon water, as it is in intimate contact with the deposited waste body, is sampled on an annual basis (similar to groundwater).”


Monitoring procedures are incorporated in to a Rhodia Ltd operational document; “RHODIA LIMITED OLDBURY SITE. HSE PROCEDURE P44. Rattlechain Landfill Site Management Procedures”. Lagoon water is to be sampled on 6 monthly basis, which exceeds EA minimum requirements, so accepted – 09/10/2013″


  • Hydrogeological Risk Assessment

Initial comments on the original URS report  mentioned the lack of evidence concerning the rumoured “off site source” of contamination into the lagoon, as well as the age of the report which should have been reviewed more frequently. We have looked at the new Hydrogeological risk assessment from URS below.

“Agreed – a full HRA review will be undertaken in accordance with EA guidance (current) with an emphasis of characterising the lagoon source term and separating out external groundwater quality issues. To allow focussed future monitoring of performance at this site.

A full HRA review has been undertaken by URS on behalf of Rhodia;”


 This report consists of 60 pages and was supplied by the environment agency in our freedom of information request. We have looked at the sloppy and conflicting history of waste disposal offered by Rhodia and their consultants previously here, and this document does little to correct these inaccuracies, though is certainly more weighty than the original document.

This revision however no longer refers to the smaller lagoon as “the clean side” lagoon as it did in 2004. This nonsense has been dropped at least with it now being refered to as “the small lagoon”. We also fundamentaly do not accept their claim that there are no “engineered barriers” beneath the lagoon. They can offer no evidence of this nor has any consultant that Albright and Wilson and Rhodia used.



Rhodia apparently submitted what URS term “extensive” borehole monitoring data to URS, which when scrutinised does not add up to very much extent at all. In fact it is difficult to draw any real observations or inferences from such a limited data set. Monitoring was only carried out once per year, which does not show trends, nor what Rhodia may have been doing to influence the readings that they took, baring in mind that it is they who also decided when to take the readings.

“Since 2004, routine sampling of lagoon water and groundwater from monitoring wells at the Rattlechain site has been undertaken annually by Rhodia. The data was supplied to URS in electronic format (MS Excel) from Tom Dutton at Solvay-Rhodia.”

We are also told, and are supposed to believe that URS have undertaken groundwater sampling and lagoon water sampling between 2011-13.

By far the biggest failure of this report is any scientific evidence to prove that there is any pollution arising from an off-site source, (THE MINTWORTH OWNED FORMER DUPORTS TIP), which is frequently proffered by URS to try to explain their clients exceeded heavy metal readings. In fact we are supposed to believe that monitoring from the nearest borehole to this site BH5 was conveniently not undertaken from 2007 onwards.

“The BH5 data set ends in 2007 due to the borehole being lost.”

 It is noted that URS highlight a rise in Orthophophate (P4 IS NOT TESTED FOR WHICH IS IN THIS MATERIAL HOWEVER), and also to certain heavy metals.

“This rise is considered to represent the effects of an agitated water column due to current dredging activities.”


Rhodia’s consultants shoot themselves in the foot here with the sugestion that a causal relationship with elevated levels of substances and dredging exists. If this is correct then the dredging activities carried out by Albright and Wilson/Rhodia at the behest of the Environment Agency, disturbed this contaminated sediment and allowed the  p4 contained within it to poison wildfowl. Yet URS make no mention of p4 in this report, nor monitor for it. It should not be forgotten that URS also previously tried  to offer the most ridiculous suggestion concerning bird mortality at the lagoon during this period in the report about “bird management” for their chemical poisoning clients.

 At the time of the most recent sampling (June 2013), ERM and contractors Klaar were adding flocculant to the material being dredged on site, which supposedly would have reduced any such increases by binding the material together. No rise is shown in the smaller lagoon at this time,  given that in June they had  supposedly started to dredge  material from this side. In fact we still wonder whether any material other than algae was actually dredged from this side at all.

We are also told that ph levels are declining, yet lately we have seen Solvay adding aluminium sulphate to the smaller lagoon, and were then pumping this chemically treated water back into the larger lagoon a couple of months later supposedly to “reduce” the ph concentration.


  • Landfill Gas

It is recommended that Rhodia monitor for landfill gas, even though they had failed to for many many years since the inception of the site. This also highlights the failure of regultors to address the issue of historic contamination. We already know that the arms of the canal where waste was dredged contain high levels of methane as well as many other chemicals not allowed to be deposited at the site after waste licensing. What went in before, which would be nearer the groundwater, is not really ever addressed.

Agreed – made ground boreholes will be monitored as above.

John Davis then makes comments concerning the “limited” potential for generation of phosphine gas. As stated previously we do not believe the company, their contractors nor the environment agency have really taken this concern with the robust monitoring required. We do not accept that the monitoring for this gas was conducted adequately following the geotextile cap laying. We now see evidence of what we believe to be this gas being evolved from below the water.

If it can vent to air we also do not see why it cannot vent towards the boreholes for monitoring.

“Agreed – it was felt there is a very small possibility that phosphine gas could be generated (Data from HPA review and update review will be used as an evidence based risk assessment in report form and initially monitoring for phosphine will be incorporated into the monitoring plan for the site).”


  • Stability of Northern slope


“Agreed – an updated risk assessment with final design will be submitted for review and once approved be incorporated in to closure plan.”



As stated above, this document is dated April 2013 and is written by ERM and DC group- Rhodia/Solvay’s partner contractors for the site works. Work had already started at the site in February. This 37 page report offers a number of calculations and cross sectional drawings of the North Embankment, but is particularly keen to point out that any works carried out would not be a risk to the integrity of the canal and railway line. In reality at this point we had contacted The Canal and Rivers Trust about the serious slope excavations that were being undertaken, (that were not originally publicly stated would be taking place).

It is clear that they were completely unaware of the works taking place. Sandwell council planning department were also contacted. Quite how this reprofiling exercise of moving hundreds of tonnes of material around the site escaped any form of formal planning permission is testament to the failed planning system rather than anything else- particularly when the risks involved about this work are not publicly advertised or consulted upon. Then there are the health risks associated with the contaminated material- which as we have made clear before are not adequately assessed in the HPA report or by the so called “monitoring” during the works.

According to the report

“The stability risk assessment of 2004 and the yearly Rattlechain lagoon slope monitoring reports show that there is evidence of ground movements and some local instability. Some slope angles are steeper than the angle of repose of the waste and these areas of slope are likely to have unsatisfactory factors of safety (i.e. are marginally stable). Progressive failure is still a possibility, and therefore URS recommended that the inspection of the slope was continued annually to ensure that the localised failures do not propagate (Ref. Rattlechain lagoon slope monitoring report of 2011).”

Reference is also made to the soft material underlying the Northern slope and that the original access way had had to be reconsidered given that it would not create a stable lasting surface.

“Due to the fact that the base of the Northern slope at the edge of the lagoon was not seen as sufficiently stable to create the access/anchor path at its base (lagoon level) it was decided to create a work path higher up on the Northern slope in order to construct in a safe way the access/anchoring path and allowing the anchoring of the geotextile.”

There appears to be no assessment of the base of the northern embankment slope failure in the original URS stability risk assessment.

The report suggests three option for reprofiling of the Northern slope

  • Option A: Compaction and vegetation,
  • Option B: Reinforced with MacMat-R; and
  • Option C: Reinforced with Geocells.

“The current material coming out of the slope is not a fertile soil but a mix of materials including ash, bricks, rubble and loamy materials that does not serve as a fertile substrate and will limit vegetation growth.”

The loamy materials mentioned are not elaborated upon, but as we directly observed during the works, smoking p4 was exposed by the mechainal diggers excavating in the area that had been used as a disposal point from the canal.

The details of the lagoon base investigation works are missing from this report. In reality the methods employed by ERM encompass spreading the contaminated soil around the rest of the site or underneath the water followed by covering it up with some soil and then further covering this with a matting followed by more soil and greenery. This makes the site more asthetically suitable for sale than a slipping steep slope which is what the Northern embankment had been for many decades.



 Perhaps the most revealing aspect of our freedom of information questions concerning the closure of the rattlechain lagoon site, was the revelation that the name “Rhodia UK Limited” as site operator would be changed to “Rhodia Limited.” The Solvay brand is obviously not to be tarnished with past misdemeanours concerning toxic waste dumping in the environment.

Having looked into the company directors of this “new” company, we are aware that there are just two, and only two employees in the said company. These are Tom Dutton, HSE site director at Solvay, and John Moorhouse, Site Redevelopment manager at Solvay. (AND BOTH EX ALBRIGHT AND WILSON). YOU COULD SAY IT IS A “TOM AND JERRY” COMPANY.




At some point in the future no doubt, these directors will step down and into the pictorial equation will come the new directors of this imaginary facade, who will by then have bought the site for something like £1 and use it to pursue a new agenda for infilling the lagoon with whatever crud they can shift for profit.