We had obtained redacted minutes of the chemical Hazards and Identification Risk Surveillance group (CHaIRS). Part of the 9th December 2009 minutes state
“5. The Chair commented that as P4 probably caused the death of the swan the investigation confirms current environmental contamination with P4 and suggests the levels of contamination in or around the lagoon could poison wildlife or humans. MB confirmed that HSE had inspected the site and advised Rhodia about security there. It was agreed that members were effectively joined up regarding this case, however if any further incidents or changes arise then the matter should he discussed again by the CHaIRS group.”
We wanted to know more about the HSE “site inspection” refered to in these minutes.
“I am requesting any written records of this inspection or letters to the company or notes of the meeting.”
WHAT DID THEY KNOW?
The first response was puzzling in that it stated “I can confirm that the Health and Safety Executive have not visited the site but holds a letter to the company.”
This letter was nothing to do with the site inspection that I had asked for , but a letter to Rhodia concerning exposure to sediment containing white phosphorus on the site, and a complaint that had been made in respect of this concerning myself. There was no valid reason for the HSE to release this document, and they appear to have misinterpreted the request as it had nothing to do with the requested information.
“I am requesting any written records of this inspection or letters to the company or notes of the meeting.” I was asking for any “letters to the company” regarding the meeting at the site, not any other general correspondence.
Given that my name was unredacted, I consider this to be a breach of DATA protection, but allowed it to stand given the context of the content. The matter of my own personal exposure to sediment at the lake as well as others, and the role of Rhodia in this matter has been considered here.
We requested an internal review, given that the CHaIRS minutes had clearly stated that they had inspected the site, and therefore queried whether this had been misreported in the minutes. It is worth pointing out however, that they had not been corrected at the subsequent CHaIRS meeting meaning that the HSE representative had not corrected the minuted error.
“Can you therefore confirm in this internal review that NO INSPECTION OF THE SITE HAS TAKEN PLACE BY THE HSE, and that the minute has been erroneously recorded as giving the impression as such.
If an inspection did take place then could I please ask for the original request to be answered.”
The HSE responded.
“You mention in your request information released concerning minutes of the
CHaIRS meeting December 2009, concerning comments of a Martin Ball from
the HSE, whereby Martin Ball was quoted as saying ` HSE had inspected the
site and advised Rhodia about security there’.
I can confirm that you are correct in stating that no inspection of this
site has taken place by the HSE and that the minute referred to above has
been erroneously recorded as giving the impression as such. I can only
apologise that these minutes have been misleading in informing members of
the public otherwise.”
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN.
We can only take the HSE’s word that the minutes were wrong and that no visit had been actioned. We think that they should have inspected the site over a great many years, whereby they would have found many breaches of security concerning broken fencing, tresspassers on site and most importantly the ability for people to come into direct contact with toxic waste in the sediment, refered to as being capable of “poisoning” people as evidenced in the CHaIRS minutes.