I see you Solvay- Shakin’ that gas, shakin’ that gas, breakin’ your gas I see you Solvay

Some time back I put in a freedom of information request to The Health and safety executive concerning a serious fire at Trinity Street in 2009.

This involved the release of a phosphorus vapour cloud and associated breakdown products over Langley which closed local businesses and confined residents living near to the chemical factory indoors.

picture Express and Star

The investigation into this toxic assault and subsequent prosecution of the firm took a ludicrous amount of time to conclude, and throughout the period of the protracted case (Seven years), I attempted to get to the bottom of what exactly occurred. It was disappointing that when the HSE finally released the report I was after, they blanked out large parts of it making it unreadable.


According to the HSE there were caveat exemptions to their redactions, but these were highly contentious and so I challenged them with the Information Commissioners office. In particular the ludicrous assertion of International relations, defence, national security or public safety (regulation 12(5)(a)) of the FOI Act being compromised by the release of the information. The EU had already been provided with some of the key information by the HSE as I pointed out, yet bizarrely the HSE did not want to provide it to a Sandwell British citizen.

I am pleased to report that the Information commissioner wrote to the HSE who reviewed their original response, and so we now get a much fuller understanding of what happened that day from a technical perspective- as well as the crucial information such as what was released and in what quantities. We also learn of the total balls up by Rhodia in the manner in which they dealt with the unfolding incident, and their subsequent attempted distortions of the truth. This speaks volumes about the chemical industry itself and its toxic deceptions.



Blank original


“There was an uncontrolled release of at around 12.06 hrs on 02 January 2009 at the premises of Rhodia UK Ltd (“Rhodia”), Trinity Street , Oldbury West Midlands (i.e Top tier COMAH site) of approximately

(i)                  37kg of phosphine (i.e COMAH named dangerous substance); and

(ii)                179kg of Phosphorus vapour   (i.e COMAH dangerous substance)

2. Upon contact with air these substances spontaneously ignited to produce approximately

409kg of phosphorus pentoxide  (i.e COSSH substance hazardous to health).

3. This would then react with water vapour in the air to produce approximately

564kg of 100% phosphoric acid (i.e COSSH substance hazardous to health.)

To clarify the table below shows how oxides of phosphorus are related to toxicity.

It is worth at this point reading the facts about phosphine as seen by the health protection agency at the time, its toxicity and health effects.



Toxicological overview 

Key Points

Kinetics and metabolism 

Inhaled phosphine is absorbed rapidly from the lungs and distributed round the body  Inhaled or ingested zinc, aluminium and magnesium phosphides release phosphine into the respiratory tract and stomach; zinc phosphide can be absorbed intact from the gut  Dermal absorption of phosphine or phosphides is not considered a significant route of exposure. The majority of absorbed phosphine is excreted in exhaled air; minor amounts are metabolised and excreted in urine as hypophosphite and phosphate

Health effects of acute exposure

 Phosphine is acutely toxic; exposure to high levels cause immediate effects  Early symptoms of acute phosphine or phosphide exposure are non-specific and include respiratory problems, cough, headaches, dizziness, numbness, general fatigue and gastrointestinal disturbance (pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea) . Effects of exposure to higher levels of phosphine, the onset of which may be delayed by several days or more, include pulmonary oedema, convulsions, damage to the kidney, liver and heart, and death

Health effects of chronic exposure

 Symptoms of chronic exposure include: anaemia, bronchitis, gastrointestinal disorders, speech and motor disturbances, toothache, weakness, weight loss, swelling of the jaw, mandibular necrosis and spontaneous fractures . Phosphine is genotoxic in vitro but is not considered to be mutagenic in vivo and has not been associated with cancer.  Phosphine is unlikely to cause reproductive or developmental effects  Repeated exposure may lead to cumulative effects .”




We learn more about Rhodia and their workforce, which over the years has dwindled from what it once was.

blank numbers

So they employed 250 people over ten production plants at the time of this incident.

Rhodia/Solvay have two phosphine plants at their Trinity Street site- these are known as P1 and P2. I will detail the history of production of this chemical at the site, as well as what the HPA thought about it at the time of the planning application in an upcoming page. The fire we learn from this report occurred at the older plant built by Albright and Wilson in 1981. The planning application was titled DC/10316 and was approved by Sandwell council in May 1980. Detail about the whole production of this facility given to SMBC by Albright and Wilson at that time can be read HERE.

more blanks – a threat to national security?

Unblank- no it is not, but it is to Oldbury and local residents

Rhodia uses phosphine as an intermediate in their manufacture of THPS and THPC. Both plants use the same method of reacting white phosphorus with steam.

blank, section 12 (5) (a) wrongly cited again




The report appears to show confusion amongst the Rhodia employees as to what to do and also the lack of sounding of the alarm due to them believing it to be an “irritant”  gas rather than the “toxic” gas which it was. They also appeared clueless as to the incident spreading off site.

We learn how Rhodia subsequently attempted to underestimate the release of phosphine gas and how the HSE did not agree with their figure. We are fully aware of how Rhodia also tried to play down the significance of the amount of white phosphorus detected in birds their company and Albright and Wilson had poisoned at Rattlechain. This example shows how section 12 (5) (a) was again misused but only served to conceal how much this company had underestimated the release of their gas. How is this a security issue or likely to put the public at risk when it is the Trinity Street blighters themselves that are the risk?





The report goes into great technical detail about the rodder assembly, interviews with several Rhodia staff and a kidology game involving legal representations and how they attempted to learn more about those people who had claimed to suffer off site effects from the chemical.

I do not wish to go over all that here as some of it was already unredacted, except to say how is it possible that a hospital had no record of people who entered and were treated under its care? What exactly were Sandwell hospital and Wednesbury and West Bromwich Primary care trust doing here?

Lost records- convenient for which company?

I have some serious concerns about the way this health authority appear to conveniently loose this information, as well as this gem apparently from West Midlands fire service.


I have long been concerned about the relationship between these different agencies and this private multinational chemical company- particularly the links between West Midlands Fire service and Albright and Wilson and then Rhodia. I am aware that they have “trained” with the professionals onsite on many occasions, though when it came to the crunch on this occasion, as is revealed, they really are piss poor amateurs. The public had every right to know about the ongoing incident, and it is not the job of the fire service or anyone else to supress information to protect this chemical company from scrutiny of its activities and what it is doing on site. In fact the HSE (Kay Brookes), operated in a similar way by originally blanking out this report as described above. Just why are they all protecting a business entity and not the public?

I also have concern that at numerous times, the still unnamed individual at Sandwell council and its joke “resilience unit” (see later in this post), as well as the local MP- (obviously Adrian Bailey), asked repeatedly about the progress of the report and when the HSE were going to release it- this before the prosecution. I was of course asking the same myself through FOI requests, but at least I know that this was not to give the firm at the centre of this any favour. Now this could well have been in the “public interest” role on their part, yet why am I left believing that they were only asking for this because Rhodia wanted to know more about the thrust it would be taking, and were asking questions directly of the HSE themselves- particularly whilst deliberately delaying and procrastinating about witness statements, records the HSE wanted and blather about their “stressed” workers involved in the incident.

Here are frequent visitor to Trinity Street Adrian Bailey and Sandwell council’s requests to the HSE for more information in chronological order as set out and detailed in the report.

Attempting to ask what the HSE’s investigation was





The facts for those who defended this environmental sham company and the industry itself are laid bare towards the end of the report. Here is what we learn.

  • They speak in tongues of semantic bullshit
  • contradicting information and statements
  • “sensitive climate”- linking their appalling toxic assault on Oldbury to the non existent one from any terrorist incidents in the area in order that they do not “alarm” the public from a real risk caused by THEM.

  • Not following their own agreed procedures
  • Used water to tackle a phosphine fire“They do not however, appear to have considered the risks of water entering the converter and/or otherwise contacting the phosphorus/phosphine.”

  • The list of vulnerable premises that Rhodia put at risk included two superstores  and a school- yet “Rhodia state they did not contact vulnerable premises because they reached a consensus with WMFS that neighbours were not likely to be affected but that the police did make contact.”
  • “When asked what relevant information they provided to the police (or any other relevant outside agency ) for them to provide to vulnerable premises, and at what time, they responded that the police had their own plan of action which was implemented in their own timeframe.”
  • “When asked whether the substances contained in the cloud that went offsite were dangerous and/or hazardous to health , for example to vulnerable persons , Rhodia referred to their above responses and provided no further information.”
  • I am fully aware myself of the health and safety managers at Rhodia’s lack of duty of care and giving relevant information when I had been exposed to material at Rattlechain lagoon. They also have the same track record for failing to inform the Veterinary laboratories agency of the threat of exposure to their staff about white phosphorus during post mortems- which they were also quick to blame on anything else than their chemical cover up.



One can only conclude by their disingenuous actions, cover- ups, uncooperative stalling , blaming other agencies that this is NOT the company that likes to think of itself as being “at the heart of the community” that unfortunately surrounds it.

The so called “consultation zone” surrounding this site is shown at the link below.

Before the investigation had concluded and they had been taken to court, “rhodia” conveniently disappeared from public view in the area with the change to the name “Solvay” in August 2014. A new site director conveniently appeared, with the other failure , whose name is still redacted in this report departing to their site in Halifax.

It is incredible that Tom Dutton , Health and safety director survived this fiasco- perhaps he knew too much.


But still with the same workforce, heavily criticised processes and phosphine plants, it was business as usual with them pumping out propaganda calendars through people’s doors- with the dramatically ironic statements about what they should do in an “unlikely emergency”.

One is reminded at this point of The Environment Agencies 1997 audit of this factory site where it was found that managers pay bonuses were linked to environmental incident performance and the fact that this may persuade managers to not report incidents. Was this still the case at Rhodia, and is it still the case at Solvay?

“Matters which have potential for impact on the environment are duly addressed and the internally set environmental targets are met. Environmental issues form part of each manager’s formal objectives; for example, the performance of individual managers is assessed against compliance with the IPC authorisations. The Audit Team expressed concern that this could in effect discourage the reporting of incidents, but were assured that the reporting system is completely open and without even implied penalty. “

There is also the matter of Rhodia’s failure to work with and later to try to pass blame onto the other professional services involved in their incident.

Take a look at this document below from the time of the fire which Sandwell council published concerning  ” resilience“.

And who should be one of their so called “partner agencies” together with West Midlands Fire Service, Wednesbury and West Bromwich Primary care trust, Sandwell hospital and the HPA – well none other than that “fine” chemical company being investigated – Rhodia. Well what a turn up that is folks- I suppose they have friends in high places when the shit hits the fan, or should that be the cut and shut rodder hits the phosphorus?

Was this and is this chemical company at all competent to be on such a group? At the time of this incident and their behavioural actions, Rhodia were not fit at all.



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The beachy head chemical mystery

Recent events in Eastbourne have shown how chemical releases spark widespread media attention and also considerable public concern. A mysterious chemical haze last month appeared to come in from the sea affecting many dozens of people at the beach around the Birling Gap area near to Beachy Head.

Is the coast now clear at Beachy head?

There has been great speculation as to what the source of  this mist was and also what chemical was released. Early speculation concerned our “friends” across the channel releasing a chemical “trouser cough” in our direction, but this appears to have been now ruled out with the wind direction being wrong. 😆

Then the theory turned to ships at sea loosing or dumping cargo overboard.

The latest theory concerns wrecked ships being disturbed- in particular a merchant ship sunk by a German mine in the First world war off beachy head called the SS Mira. “Weapons” were reported to be on board, and it is likely that munitions containing hazardous chemicals would over time degrade and corrode, potentially making them more dangerous than when they were first made.

It is of course at this stage, still speculation.

What we do know are the symptom affects and the anecdotal descriptions offered by people affected, who required hospital attention. This is by no means a small scale issue and unfortunately as they do, the emergency services play down such incidents treating us all like little children who cannot handle the truth.

Such incidents were rife during World War two, and unfortunately Government agencies conceal information from us on a regular basis.

This incident is particularly reminiscent of Oldbury’s very own chemical leak involving the release of phosphine gas and associated breakdown products in 2009. The ridiculous investigation which took seven years concluded with a fine for Rhodia/Solvay yet the incident which also affected at least three people who also sort hospital attention for very similar ailments as described in the Beachy head incident got little in the way of investigation. I will be looking in more detail at a recently released less redacted FOI request about this Trinity Street fire in an upcoming blog post.

The symptoms

First hand accounts via social media have described the following

“Everyone’s eyes were streaming and throats sore”

“Eyes running and stinging”

“Breathing problems and chest pain.”


From this we can conclude that the chemical is obviously a lachrymator but would it really be feasible for it to have been released from an old wreck, and what circumstances could have led to this?

I decided to travel to the area  to survey the scene for myself.

Looking out to sea

What was particularly striking was the total quietness and isolation- absolutely no sound at all.

The lighthouse stood alone , yet perched on the cliff edge a peregrine falcon observed a clear but still hazy day.



There was some gas detected around the pub area. 🙁

At Birling Gap coach tours and plenty of tourists appeared to be enjoying a day out, with some cyclists pounding the miles up the rugged steep pathways.

There are clear reminders as to why this is a notorious suicide spot, and looking over the edge is not for the faint hearted. It also strikes me as odd that there are no real safety measures in place.

Personally I don’t believe the wreck theory, and think it is more likely to be something like this.

Whatever the as yet unidentified gas, here’s what the Public health England say about phosphine poisoning

“Breathing phosphine can cause irritation of the nose, mouth, throat and lungs; headaches, dizziness, stomach pain, sickness and vomiting.”

Is it also possible that the whole thing was an elaborate exercise to test public and particularly media reaction to such a future “terrorist” chemical attack? Was this not something that lay beneath, but something that was dropped from above?

Whoever or whatever was involved, the less the Government agencies fail to conclude a cause , the more likely the known cover up of the truth. Unfortunately their truth is usually all at sea.

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AW bombs on the SAS patch

It may be a surprise to know that the biggest “terrorist” planter of ordnance capable of causing harm to human health is not the IRA or ISIS, but those  good old boys from Britain’s WW2 Home Guard, who never fail to amaze in how they buried large quantities of crates of self igniting phosphorus grenades, otherwise known as “AW bombs”.

I have chronicled probably the most definitive literature on the production, and detail of these devices on the internet from various sources, but the frequency with which they still appear is quite amazing given that we are now talking 76 years since they were manufactured by Albright and Wilson of Oldbury.

Manufactured for a tank invasion that never came to Britain, these weapons containing white phosphorus and benzene were both useless but harmful. We know exactly how many were made from this letter (over 7 million under two MOS contracts) , yet the MOD claim they don’t know what happened to them.

The latest cache of a reported crate of 24 was found in Herefordshire on an industrial estate. Below is what this may have looked like.

milk crate
Once again the emergency services appear to go to great lengths suggesting that the created phosphorus pentoxide would not produce any long lasting health effects, yet appear incredulous that they are causing the risk to start with by blowing them up, instead of cracking the bottles under water and then treating the remnants chemically.
“Residents were advised to close all windows and doors, and to keep away from smoke from the grenades as the smoke can cause temporary respiratory problems and irritation to eyes and skin.”
No wonder these improvised incendiary devices needed a home.
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Britton waives it through

Last month I reported on the fact that Rhodia (convenience name for Solvay’s toxic assets), had finally submitted a retrospective planning application for camera posts and additional cameras at their toxic hazardous waste rattlechain lagoon. THIS HAD ONLY BEEN DONE AFTER A REMINDER BY THE PLANNING OFFICER SUGGESTING THAT THEY WOULD FACE ENFORCEMENT ACTION.

For a large multinational company this is quite a surprise, but I am afraid that it doesn’t surprise me as they appear to do whatever they like in the area anyway, and so this case proved still further.

Not only did this application submit an invalid plan, but also chose to present the site as some form of wonderful open space, minus mentioning that it was still a hazardous waste site “monitored” under licence by the environment agency, (or at least that is the theory).

So the completely expected recommendation for approval by the officer dealing with this, except  what appears to be very underhand decision notice accompanying it.

Firstly let’s take a look at the officer report.



The retrospective application was recommended for approval. It is interesting that the correct title “rattlechain lagoon” is now given though Rhodia were using “rattlechain mere” on the site plans.



The officer (Alison Bishop) mentions the previous planning application passed in 2010 which had conditions relating to one camera as well as the new pole mounted cameras on the North Embankment, yet somehow appears to forget the other part of the application totally in her officer report , i.e “and three new additional cameras fixed to existing camera post (non pivotal with zoom lenses).”

Here they are below, which are located right next to the homes in Callaghan Drive.



“The applicant is seeking retrospective permission for two cameras mounted on 4 metre high poles immediately adjacent to the canal tow path at the northern edge of the waste lagoon. The cameras will be fixed and have a zoom facility, with one camera incorporating a speaker. The applicants have also indicated that photographic evidence of major damage to the north bank occurred due to ‘bottle collectors’ entering the site via the top boundary fence during the period of November 2015 to November 2016. “

Hang on a minute, this is suggesting that Rhodia are unclear as to when the alleged intrusion took place and supposedly people were digging for bottles. The cameras, were by their admission erected between August-November of 2016, so how are they unable to pinpoint the exact timeframe if their existing camera was actually working?

It is incredible that a plan which is not accurate in terms of the location site boundary is accepted by this council, based on the positions of the cameras being accurate! If this is the case would it be acceptable to submit a 1905 ordnance survey map before any houses had been built and the site was still being used as a brickworks  providing that the cameras were in the right place?

The level of  113 decibels that the speaker is capable of was not mentioned in the application.  It may be worth Alison Bishop taking a look at this HSE page, and she negates to mention this new legislation (The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (the Noise Regulations) in the bottom of the report.

“The level at which employers must provide hearing protection and hearing protection zones is now 85 decibels (daily or weekly average exposure) and the level at which employers must assess the risk to workers’ health and provide them with information and training is now 80 decibels. There is also an exposure limit value of 87 decibels, taking account of any reduction in exposure provided by hearing protection, above which workers must not be exposed.”

I don’t see any such document submitted by Rhodia, or for the members of the public either. There is also the small matter of speaker also being added to the existing camera pole next to the houses (see picture above). 113 decibels is equivalent to the sound of an emergency vehicle siren for comparison. What do they intend playing from this speaker, a siren, voice warning, loud music? These are unanswered questions that should have been determined.

“the history of the site as waste tip is not relevant to this application”

Well what is the relevance of the original planning application allowing a camera on the site as revealed in that officer report? What crap.

“As the nearest residents on Callaghan Drive are 300 metres from the cameras, it is considered that their privacy will not be compromised”

NO NO NO, what about “and three new additional cameras fixed to existing camera post (non pivotal with zoom lenses).”  Why does the officer totally forget about these? Or fail to ask any questions about these cameras being “electronically blanked out” – whatever that means?

There is also no explanation as to why additional cameras were needed at the South of the site away from the embankment.

The records of intruders were not submitted with the application. If it was possible to submit records, then how were Rhodia able to provide these without the cameras in operation?

Now here is the underhand part of this affair.

Although this report was recommended for approval, I got no notification as objector,  given that I had made a material objection.

On the same day that this report was written, it received automatic delegated approval from Mr Jan Britton, Chief Executive of Sandwell MBC.


This was the same day as the planning committee meeting at Sandwell Council house, yet for some unexplained reason, this application does not even appear on the officially approved delegated list for that night. WHY?

Jan Britton has been at post in Sandwell council for seven years , having previously been involved in regeneration and highways. He also in the past has worked for Barking and Dagenham council, Buckinghamshire County Council and Colchester Borough council.

There has been considerable failure in Sandwell council throughout the period of Mr Britton’s tenure as chief officer, most notably wide scale fraud and deception by elected members and officers under his watch. In fact the reason why his signature appears on this approved application is that Sandwell currently has no chief planning officer with the demise of Nick Bubalo, another officer heavily criticised for failure in the now infamous Wragge report.


Add to this Sandwell’s record of delaying and lying in freedom of information requests as well as the infamous murder of birds to which Sandwell council officers lied. Britton didn’t even reply to my concerns about his corrupt parks officers. Rhodia on the other hand just poison birds and try to deny the evidence.

One has to ask how long Britton can sustain all the failure of this council and one must also look at the claims of now current leader Steve Eling about “draining the swamp” regards wrong doing at Sandwell council. It doesn’t appear to matter who leads this council, as Trinity Street always appears to be well connected politically.

It can be no coincidence that this report and application goes under the radar at the same time as the Dudley Port Supplementary Planning document appears to suggest that adding more houses around this hazardous waste site would be a good idea. The authors also played down the nature of the site  “the wet tip” as Rhodia did in their application.

There are some unanswered questions about this application and approval which I intend to FOI.

Perhaps it is not the swamp at John’s Lane that needs an application for extra cameras and speaker systems operated by Robowatch to watch what is going on there, but the cesspit located at Freeth Street Oldbury.

Sandwell is open for accommodating a dirty business.


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Zoiks! Capt poison at Rattlechain

Scooby didn’t plan on finding capt. poison whilst searching for snacks on the North embankment!


“Trying to steal my bottles of rum, Keep out yer blighter!”



“This will ward off those bunting tossers!”


“you pesky kids!”

“Now let’s see who’s glowing phosphorus face redbeard really is….”

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Planning application DC/17/60912 whom is watching whom?



Back in March, I reported on the mysterious case of additional cameras and pole mounts appearing at Rattlechain lagoon, which had actually been erected last year and also a query put to Sandwell council about this and if any planning permission was required.

It subsequently transpired from the reply from SMBC that planning permission WOULD be required for additional cameras to the application originally submitted in 2010 of the single pole based camera covering the front entrance and supposedly the whole pool.


“permission would be required for any additional pole mounted cctv on the site”

The planning application in 2010 was reference DC/10/51860 (Proposed construction of a 10m high column equipped with a CCTV camera).

This ONLY gave permission for one camera, at the main entrance, with no night vision and requirement that local residents in neighbouring houses were screened from any Trinity Street peeping Toms,(or circumstances to that effect).



Since this march post, and if you will excuse the pun, there have been some developments on these particular unauthorised erections.

I did indeed complete the attached enforcement form and this was then left in the council’s hands for action. Unfortunately it appeared to me for some time that those hands weren’t exactly taking any and had gone rather limp in response. Chasing this I then received the following confirmation from the SMBC planner in May.

In the first instance I have reviewed the regulations for permitted development rights in relation to CCTV equipment and the camera does require permission as was the case in 2010, Solvay have been made aware of this and I have chased for an application to be submitted as soon as possible.  Clearly we will review in more detail its location and where the camera is directed to ensure that the privacy of residents is not compromised.  On speaking with Solvay, they stated that the camera was erected due to the break-ins on site and concerns about the risk to individuals.

Having not had any confirmation of any application I followed this up again receiving the following.

“I apologise for not responding, I did contact Rhodia/Solvay back in May and they confirmed that they would submit an application.  However as you state sometime has elapsed and still no application.  Therefore I have now written a formal letter stating that the lighting columns require permission and if an application is not submitted by the end of August, then enforcement proceedings will be instigated.”

One can see from this how Rhodia operate. They avoided not only making an application but also depriving the much “cash strapped” Sandwell council of a planning fee for the application. 😳

But let’s be clear here, their oversight, subsequent ignorance and now the retrospective planning application itself are all designed to try to disguise the contents of their still “hazardous waste area”  site and the still current waste management licence governing the established use of this former clay pit.


Three documents were submitted with the application which has been given reference number DC/17/60912 .

First to note about this application is the invalid plan of the current site. For some reason Rhodia or their agents have used the plan of the site as it stood in 1975, BEFORE the stopping up of the right of way RP97 in John’s Lane! The Albright and Wilson site was reduced in size as a result of this land sale to the reckless dumpers of Duport Properties Limited.


Are they just stupid, and are they that unaware of this area that they have submitted a wrong plan, or is there something more cunning afoot here? SEE BELOW


Their current site boundary is of course the one below, which they actually submitted in the 2010 application, and which identifies the area as having 5.76 hectares– note this important figure for later on.


It could be argued that they are trying to project to anyone who doesn’t know the site- ie Sandwell council planners , that the cctv posts are well away from the current public footpath and so are well contained within the site. We also get the return of the ludicrous “rattlechain mere”– this is the deception that was being used by the likes of Tom Dutton and works managers in the early 2000’s when they were trying to claim that their hazardous waste landfill tip and its contents was not responsible for birds being poisoned there.

Of note in the drawings and positions of the pole cameras are


“Good morning campers, Hi di Hi!”




I’m not sure that this is English, yet it appears to be suggesting that the cameras have been “electronically blanked out”.  WELL WHAT DOES THAT MEAN EXACTLY?  IS ANYONE ABLE TO REMOVE SUCH SAFEGUARDS AT SOME POINT AND HOW?- IN THE INTERESTS OF PROTECTING NEARBY RESIDENTS PRIVACY?

The application form itself can be read below.


There are numerous questions and statements made in here some of which are just not true or accurate, just like the invalid plan submitted of the site.

We get confirmation of what we already know concerning the two erections on the North embankment which are 80 metres apart and that this work commenced on 27th July 2016 being completed on 8th November 2016.

The most interesting thing about this is not the reason why there was considered a need for these extra cameras, but the complete lack of mention of the site’s dangerous contents which are of course the real reason for their erection.

“Following on from civil’s works at Rattlechain it was found that persistent intruders were entered the site by cutting through the North boundary fence followed by digging into the North bank slopes in the search for collectable bottles.

The excavations into the banks were quite severe with concerns that intruders could have caused death/ serious injury to themselves or for the newly formed banks to have slipped causing extensive damage.”

Firstly the supposition that anyone has entered the site digging for bottles is just that- where is the evidence?

I noted these diggings some time back, actually believing that Rhodia or their contractors had made them, especially given that they coincided with the area of the former gulley where the old discharge pipe that was used to tip waste from the Matty canal boats was located. One would expect this area to have been more heavily contaminated on this embankment, and so may well be tested to determine the extent of white phosphorus/phosphine being present in the soil/embankment after it had been covered.

It seems highly unlikely if you read ERM’s appraisal of the embankment works that any slippage would occur from such diggings, so we are left with the final statement which is of note. Undoubtedly Rhodia are fully aware that intruders could cause “death/serious injury to themselves”, not as a result of falling from what is a fairly typical embankment in this area, but as a consequence of the nature of material present in the embankment and still contained within the lagoon itself.

Perhaps if they were clear and were not desperately trying to conceal this, then one could have more sympathy for this application, but as it is this is just another in a long line to which I have become an expert in unravelling the Trinity Street liars real motives.


The site address is given as the ludicrous “rattlechain mere.” I thought this had been dropped some time around a decade ago, but obviously they are trying to create images of disassociation away from the rattlechain tip/lagoon toxic association. Of course they attempt to do so in vain.


“open area of natural habitat surrounding a small lake at the end of John’s Lane.”  😆 



Confirmation of the camera specifications and also the invalid plan of the site that they submitted with it.


Rhodia claim that “the site is no longer used”. This in terms of them depositing any further toxic waste may be true, but it remains “in use” in that the licence governing the site has not been surrendered. It has not been surrendered because Rhodia would have to demonstrate that the site poses no future risk to anyone in the area. THEY HAVE NOT DONE THIS.


How is it  possible that Rhodia can lie about the site not being land which is known to be contaminated?

How is it possible that Rhodia can lie about contamination being suspected for all or part of the site?


Just for clarity , here is what was stated in the 2010 application.


“isolated” and “the nature of the waste materials” YES It sensible to install a camera but it not sensible to have dumped the waste there in the first place.


The declaration confirms that Rhodia knowingly have submitted false and misleading information with this application.

It is quite bizarre that the cheeky buggers have in the camera details even lifted pictures off this website to demonstrate what the cameras and posts look like during their construction! These of course were used to demonstrate how they had failed to submit an application to start with!


Well two can play at that game. Here are some direct quotes from their propaganda website, set up after this one to try to counter some of the truths about what was really buried at their site, and what still remains there.

“Please note that the Rattlechain Lagoon is a hazardous waste landfill site with an open body of water. For your own safety and that of others we urge you not to try to gain unauthorised access to the site at any time. The site is surrounded by a metal fence, monitored by CCTV and regularly inspected by a security contractor in order that we can ensure the site remains safe and secure. In an emergency, or if you see any suspicious behaviour, please contact 0121 541 3314 or the Police.”

So just to recap, Rhodia on their own website tell us exactly what the site really is and that it is ALREADY

“Please note that the Rattlechain Lagoon is a hazardous waste landfill site with an open body of water. For your own safety and that of others we urge you not to try to gain unauthorised access to the site at any time. The site is surrounded by a metal fence, monitored by CCTV….”

One must also ask the question if they were concerned about trespass from the North embankment, then why the additional cameras needed at the south of the site, right next to people’s homes?



“The future

“The lagoon will remain a hazardous waste site, will remain closed to any further waste and will still be covered by an Environmental Permit. The Permit has however been varied so as to acknowledge that no new waste is being introduced to the site. This Permit will remain in place and will be enforced by the Environment Agency for the foreseeable future.”




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More memories of rattlechain lagoon phosphorus dumping

One of the main focusses of this website was to assimilate all the recorded history of the site into one place. The canal traffic waste transportation of the white phosphorus contaminated material- i.e the stuff that poisoned the birds that was dumped into the lagoon, was one such jigsaw piece. It was previously stated in some books and by those at Trinity Street, that this traffic ended in 1969/70- but as evidenced by Roy Martin’s pictures and write up that is not the case at all. Another perspective of this traffic and the lagoon was written by Malcom Edge.

I am delighted that I have recently made contact with David Wilson, a local photographer who had the wisdom to capture some rare images of this traffic near its demise, and also he agreed to write a few words to accompany his pictures, which have previously been printed in some local history books. It is with great pleasure that he allowed me to reproduce them on this website. Hopefully they will leave with the other recollections, a timely reminder as to “what lies beneath rattlechain lagoon”- and it’s certainly not “toothpaste”!

I’ve archived a short version of David’s memory with the other recollections HERE, and it corroborates that in 1971, Albright and Wilson were still using Alfred Matty to transport their waste to rattlechain. I’d also like to thank David’s son Mark for his enthusiasm and help and also local historian Keith Hodgkins who archived some of David’s pictures.

I’ve also expanded some of the pictures to highlight some interesting observations.

By David Wilson, and forward by Mark Wilson

David Wilson is a canal enthusiast and amateur photographer. In the 1960s and 1970s he recorded much local commercial canal traffic, including some of the workings between Albright & Wilson and the Rattlechain Lagoon or Brickworks. He has had many of his photographs reproduced in several publications concerning local railway, road and canal traffic. He is local to the area, having grown up in Greets Green, West Bromwich. In addition, he has lived in Horseley Heath, Tipton, since 1966. He records his observations below.


“During the late 1960s & early 1970s, I witnessed the late stages of commercial canal traffic, in the West Midlands. The main regular traffic, was, gas oil from the various gas works (Walsall, Swan Village) to Oldbury. This was undertaken by “Clayton’s of Oldbury” in flush decked craft. I believe this traffic ceased around 1968.

The other regular traffic was phosphorous waste, taken from Albright & Wilson, in Oldbury, to a disposal site near Dudley Port. The boats used for this operation were owned by “Alfred Matty”, who were based at Coseley. The waste was in liquid form, and I seem to recall this waste had a distinctive odour, which reminded me of the smell at the swimming baths. The boats bore the greenish stains, and the cargo (to me) seemed hazardous. The phosphorous waste material, when at its destination, was to be then pumped into the marlhole.


1965, Matty boat descending the Brades Locks en- route to discharge hazardous cargo at rattlechain lagoon. Note the rattlechain brickworks buildings and stack still in evidence to the top left of the picture. Also the staining of chemicals on the boat as David describes. Picture Copyright David Wilson, reproduced with permission.



Enlargement showing The Ocker Hill Cooling towers

Enlargement showing three key structures. 1 the new brickworks pit that would become “the duport’s tip filled with waste from the Vono company and other illicit materials. 2 The rattlechain brickworks building still in situ. 3 a building that would be the last remnant of these works and is visible in a picture I have seen in 1973 when tipping at this site was in evidence. By then the brickworks themselves had vanished.


A brick structure housed the pumping equipment, pipes were connected from the boats, then it was discharged into the marlhole below. This marlhole was the one known locally as ‘Rattlechain Lagoon’. I also remember that the water in the marlhole was a duck egg green/blue colour. This, to my knowledge, was the only disposal site. “

1971, matty boat heading in the direction of Oldbury. Note the pumphouse building David refers to on the right of the picture on the towpath just partially in shot. Picture Copyright David Wilson, reproduced with permission.

The Albright and Wilson pumphouse


One of David’s pictures dated 1971 showing a Matty boat heading back towards the direction of Oldbury. Had it just turned around at the Netherton branch or was it heading to Albright and Wilson from their Coseley base? Picture Copyright David Wilson, reproduced with permission.



1965 . A Matty boat called “the Maurine” towing another boat behind in the direction of Brades Locks. This area behind is Albright and Wilson’s Gower Tip. Copyright David Wilson , reproduced with permission.

It is very likely that the boat operator lost in the fumes of the boat is Enoch Clowes, who nearly died from passing out from the fumes when discharging the chemical waste from the Matty boat into Rattlechain- and left us the epitaph describing it as “a place in which nothing could live.”

One has to say that it is with great relief that phosphorus is no longer carried in this manner, and that lack of personal protective measures do not show that the cargo being carried was “safe”, more that the carriers and the company paying them were foolhardy.

Once again many thanks to David, Mark and Keith.

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Last week local environmental campaigners including myself organised a public event in Tividale concerning the so called “garden city” proposals (“The Dudley Port Supplementary Planning document” DPSPD) – part of which attempt to promote “allocated” housing sites in the vicinity of toxic contaminated land.

To view this click below.


This area has on its doorstep an area that was also once “a tip” that someone had the vision to reclaim into an “urban park” which later became a local nature reserve. The strangely named “Sheepwash Local Nature Reserve.” There are no sheep here, though the name supposedly derives from when sheep were.

What there is here is an existing haven for wildlife, which although not perfect largely due to Sandwell council’s lack of care and management does at least have potential to be a first class area for nature. This is entirely dependent on its surroundings not being built on and nature corridors along the canal network and surrounding open spaces severed by housing and human intervention. It is this aspect that those intent on making money can never see.

The event was well attended and local residents in the area, some old and some new told us their stories of what had transpired in the early 1980’s and throughout the 1990’s. We were told about

  • “Structural damage” to properties caused by activity on the former Duport’s tip site during the “reclamation” works.
  • How monitoring had been done concerning boreholes, by parties unknown  yet results had never been shared with them
  • How some had attended meetings with only representatives of The Black Country Development Corporation- yet never with Mintworth or anyone involved in the so called “steering group” ghost group that took place out of public scrutiny. They were not aware of these meetings and how they show nothing but utter contempt from the point of view of the so called “consultants” of the company talking about “quelling” local public concern.
  • How one resident had been told by a Sandwell council officer several years ago that John’s Lane was “private land” and they could not take pictures there. (Of course this is total lies as a public right of way and one seriously questions the reasons why an officer would lie like this, and if they were part of some corrupt conspiracy of silence about The Albright and Wilson facility. (Let’s also not forget how the hazardous waste management notice board disappeared when houses were being marketed on the former sewage works site in 2006).
  • As well as some residents who had moved away from the area, it was also clear that others had moved in very recently in the last few years, and so were unaware of the past legacy of this area involving the lagoon, the former Duport’s tip and the foundry sand tipping era of “misery”
  • Most were blissfully unaware of the “allocated” status of the housing in the area, and had not heard of  “the garden city” consultation until we had raised and promoted its objectional content.
  • There was a clear consensus that they were against more housing in the area concerned- mainly due to loss of wildlife habitat/privacy and increased traffic pressure.

We were also provided with some photographic evidence concerning large areas of water on the former Duport’s tip site and surrounding land that had accumulated in the vicinity of the then recently built “Charter Homes” estate- incorporating Law Close. One could date the photographs from the iconic gas cooling towers still visible at Ocker Hill in the distance, which were demolished in 1984, as well as the gas tower at Swan village and Ryder house in Whitgreave Street- also both blown up in the early 2000’s.

The landscape appears barren with rubbish blowing all around. It is also clear from these pictures, (estimated taken in 1982), about the then existing height of the tipped foundry sand. I was already aware from an Environment Agency contact that the original levels were supposedly that of the existing sewage works, but this appears to be the proof of that. The Albright and Wilson panelled fencing forming a border between the two sites is visible, and clearly below the height of the top of the then base. The height of the current mound connected to the now replaced Rhodia metal fence on this side of rattlechain lagoon  is now several metres above.

View of the mound today several metres above Rhodia fenceline

A flimsy wooden fence with broken gaps visibly present is all that divided the tip operating under the auspices of what by then would have been waste management licence SL129,  from the houses. This remains the case even today in the same area.

We also saw a more recent picture of the French drain being constructed around the site, plastic sheeting taped off with red and white flicker tape. This I am aware from correspondence would date to around the end of the 1990’s.

Politically this is a potential hot potato. It was interesting to see both Green party and UKIP representatives at the event  sharing a common goal in tackling an issue of local concern. I would like to thank both of these parties for attending the event, whilst also stressing that this blog writer is a member of neither though has sympathies with both. It is I believe possible to achieve a balanced perspective on a range of issues.

Information and the accessibility of it and the then inaccessibility of information was one of the driving factors of setting up this website. Things were hidden away in drawers and gathering dust in boxes. Stories and anecdotes remained scattered , and the history had largely been written by people sympathetic to a polluting and deceitful industry. Those balances have hopefully now been corrected.

One should also be careful of the veneer of respectability attached to science, and especially the concept of paid science for hire via the so called “environmental consultant” industry, who are really development opportunity facilitators. We were told many things by scientists regarding the safety of the lagoon and about “toothpaste” when we started to ask questions about bird deaths at the site. One should question how scientists at Trinity Street were able to put a lid on their toxic waste for all those years, and also how the scientific knowledge that they and their regulators professed to have failed to protect the innocent wildlife being poisoned by their greedy business interest.  A knowledge of A level chemistry helped me understand some of it, and those unpaid by any party connected to the lagoon financially or surrounding area the rest. Having an “ology” does not make you an expert on everything, even if you are conceited enough to think it does. Take the case of Erin Brockovich for example and how she was able to uncover a great chemical deception with water in the US, and continues to fight for environmental justice with her “sticktoitness” philosophy.

It is a community however that holds the key to environmental justice. Unfortunately apathy is something which infects some people living in such areas as this and the fact that people have not literally dropped dead living next to both the lagoon and the former Duport’s tip site should not be taken as a barometer of them being “safe”.

People are of course free to let the grass grow around their feet, ignore all warnings about what is likely to happen only to wake up one day and when they pull back the curtains see a mechanical digger has shovelled a load of foundry sand across an area that once supported wildlife. They probably believe the opinions of a someone that their house prices will go down if they make a public fuss, where as that same person’s luxurious pad in green belt land, unspoilt by tipping weighs in at around £1.15 million.

Gone is the view, the claims made that the area would “not be built on” and the reality starts to bite that they have been sold a pup.

The following day after our event, myself and a co organiser of the petition attended the event being held in Victoria park Tipton- which included a Sandwell council officer stall concerning the Black country Core strategy and the DPSPD. Our attendance was probably unexpected to say the least, but perhaps an increase of two to anyone who will actually be affected by the site allocations in The Temple Way area who did not attend.

It was stated that the Black Country Core strategy and site allocations would be reviewed next year, which to us makes the DPSPD quite useless, especially as the council already announced this week that they had acquired money for The Birmingham Canal revamp in the area anyway.

Of course we will object at every opportunity concerning these allocations and their unsustainability of being sited next to a hazardous waste lagoon emitting toxic gas.

There remains one week left to comment on the DPSPD, and do not be misguided into believing that site allocations are a done deal, because as the officers were forced to concede, the ground conditions are far from being “shovel ready”, and they also stated that Sandwell council would not buy the land because of those constraints making it unviable. Well that’s some confidence there isn’t it! See the SWOT analysis “threats” below which was strangely omitted from the main document itself and only revealed when we FOI’d it. We’ve added a few relevant pointers for potential developers about “ground conditions” in the area. 🙄 



Alternatively at the council event they also gave out a postal address at which you can respond to the proposals, strangely not included in the council publicity (or lack of it) concerning the DPSPD.



Remember you can also sign an online petition

which together with a paper one will be handed in shortly at the same time.


It is important that people are able to shape their own areas and not by others who dictate by design what should happen from outside them. The open question remains for these people-


Science can be bought, and things can be spun.

Sometimes it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know and the circles in which they operate.

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Dirty chancing- The Winter of Miss Content

That was the Winter of 2010, when everyone called me Ba*tard , and it didn’t occur to me to mind. That was before  Osama Bin Laden was shot, before One Direction, when I couldn’t wait to join  two pieces of paper together to form a chain  and I never thought I’d find out what lies beneath rattechain lagoon!

It started in the bleakest Winter for over 30 years in earnest. Diggers appeared on top of the mound that once featured the Rattlechain brickworks which had been replaced by Mintworth’s massive over tipped pile of foundry sand.

Here’s video I took of this at the time.

What was going on here, after an apparent long lull in any site activity? The site as we know had been left largely abandoned following this companies apparent “liquidation”.

Sandwell council had for reason’s only known to themselves actually used £14,000 of tax payers money to fence off Mintowrth’s “derelict site” from the long suffering residents of Gladstone Drive, who not adverse to suffering “misery” from their foundry sand tipping, were now experiencing “scavengers” and “tatters” as well as motor bike enthusiasts- all of course due to the lack of any site security. In actual fact this had been going on since the 1970’s according to correspondence on file.






Why did tax payers have to fund the fencing of private land, and not the site owner?

How remarkable then that although they had apparently gone into “liquidation”, and also not met the requirements of the site licence SL947 leading to its surrender, but had in fact bypassed this by liquidating, that they should assume the right to once again use Johns Lane and the canal as a means of gaining access up to their abandoned mound.

Signs appeared on the fence line of the Rhodia site, and it was quite apparent that damage was being caused not only to this but also the track up to the canal with the new unusual heavy traffic.


The diggers and large pieces of machinery kept coming, and the eventual thaw revealed large movements of material, well within the Duport’s Tip area. A friend of mine decided to take a short cut home to carry a water bowser and discovered quite a few shocking sites.

A massive crater had been carved out in an area that included the stated “Duport’s Tip”. A large blue piece of machinery loomed like an invading spacecraft that had settled in the pit. It was quite a mess, and several metres deep!


Service roads appeared to have been carved around the site, yet no one from the housing estate, the canal or John’s Lane were deliberately able to identify what was going on in the middle due to the carefully hidden trench enforcements of the over tipped foundry mounds.
 Next it appeared that some form of industrial grade magnet had been attached to one of the earth movers, and was busy removing large piles of scrap metal buried within this area. But hang on a minute, why had Mintworth buried just these instead of obeying the site licence SL947? Hardly “good housing” keeping was it, especially when buried down so deep. No one could possibly have tatted for metal to those depths without being seen and bringing machinery of this nature onto the site could they? Perhaps it may have been a couple of old pensioners with a German sounding sports name?
There was also clearly much material blowing about in the wind through the Christmas trees, many of which appeared to be being felled into the partially hidden crater being excavated. It was as though those who were doing this could have used a fold up table and a dirty knife instead.
It was time for a closer inspection.
 Within the new lunar landscape the activities of man were clear to see. ICI – a firm which had not been in the area for many years clearly had some packaging waste blowing about in the rattlechain area. Sodium hydroxide is clearly a very dangerous substance, but there was never any licence which allowed their waste or of any other chemical company to be deposited here, not even as notes in the margins.

mint mound 018

Silica- a human carcinogen

Worse than this silica packaging, with the clear warning on the red packaging that this was a human carcinogen. It was evident in the carved out water filled craters that much of the so called rags, scrap packaging etc was still there and had not been removed from the site.

mint mound 009

This overload!

For scale, a meter ruler highlighted was placed at the foot of one of the new crevasses. See middle of picture if you enlarge it.

mint mound 006

mint mound 019

Johnny’s castle?

Having reviewed my friends pictures, I approached both Sandwell MBC and The Environment Agency. The latter effectively told me “not us GOV- see Sandwell council. The council effectively told us to see the EA!

It is exactly this type of BS that unfortunately allowed this rotten site, and that at the lagoon to exist in the first place, particularly for those who know how to exploit them both.

According to John Baylay- (aka the man from Del Monte at Sandwell on account of how he always liked to say “YES” to Mintworth’s many planning applications) , these works he ascertained were for purposes as follows.

“I attended a site meeting with the owner (John Hurst of Mintworth Transport Ltd) in August 2010 and again in February 2011.  I have made several other site inspections from nearby roads and the canal since then.

The site owner has explained that: –

1. Settlement, scouring and erosion, criminal damage to the perimeter security, and extensive ‘tatting’ for metals has left the site far from the state that it was left in on completion of the approved reclamation/landfill operation well over 10 years ago;

2. The activities undertaken have been for the purpose of repairing and making the site safe; returning it to the state in which it was, and reducing the likelihood of trespass and/or accident.

3. The activities have involved the placement of screened foundry sand over exposed slags and lumps; re-dressing the slopes to make them safe; and, improving vegetation cover over parts of the site. 


mint mound 008

4. The screened material has been obtained has been obtained by screening existing fill materials on the site.

5. The activities are matters of maintenance and repair to the approved landform (i.e. good housekeeping) and do not therefore amount to “development” requiring planning permission.

To date it has not been considered that there is a clear breach of planning control  requiring action by the local planning authority in the public interest.  However, the matter will be kept under review and I expect to have a further site meeting in the next month or so.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.


John Baylay
Principal Planning Officer”

So basically from Sandwell council there, we have a continuation of the same extensions of time, excuses and apathy of what exactly was going on there as they showed throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s.

If this was about “good house keeping”- then why did Sandwell council repair the damaged fence belonging to John Hurst, (a licence condition and also legal requirement), and not them for him?

Why do motor bikes continue to be an issue at the site- some 7 years after this query to the council?


Large amounts of metal were recovered from this site, and it is quite clear that these were taken away, no doubt to weigh them in for quite a mint. But why were they allowed to be dumped there in the first place with the foundry sand during the supposed period of licensing?

Fast Forward to 2017 and all that appears to remain behind of Mintworth’s presence at the site is a skip and a curious sandwich cabin. A yellow digger that had been there for years after these tatting operations from earlier in the decade apparently according to local residents was removed off site from Gladstone Drive just a couple of weeks ago- remarkably timed to coincide with the start of the ludicrous  Sandwell council “consultation” for the “Dudley Port Supplementary planning document.”

Conspiracy or coincidence- you decide- but here’s a reminder of that digger and what it was used for at the site, and hopefully it will not be coming back any time soon, whilst at the same time informing new residents of Gladstone Drive as well as Law Close as to what it was doing there in the first place.



Hardly the vegan grindhouse!

One wonders how anyone at this site ever had a clean pair of hands to start with.

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Sandwell cons, we advise #stopthegardencity

We are now three weeks into a supposed consultation regarding The Dudley Port Supplementary planning document that in part seeks to think it is a good idea to build more houses right next to a hazardous waste area that is emitting toxic gas.

But rather than consult the residents of The Temple Way Estate, Sandwell council are instead hiding it in a tent in Victoria park Tipton next week- well over a mile away from where any of the action will take place, and “the misery”.

You can see what the birds think of it!

Well that just won’t do!

We want to see this area left to nature and kept green, not foundry sand black. We want to see the nature reserve at Sheepwash thrive and not become further threatened and marginalised by inappropriate development- and water contamination through industrial sources.




Tipton Road Methodist Church 
Saturday 22nd July between 11am -3pm


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