There is currently a very important planning application which affects the whole of Langley and most of the surrounding area of Oldbury. Be in no doubt, this hazardous substance consent, sought by a company which has repeatedly failed to control its off site problems decides what type of town the people of Oldbury want.
Let us first consider what this Solvay site currently is. To give it its souped up title it is a COMAH top tier site. That sounds both baffling and also a false impression that somehow everything that happens within this spralling chemical factory is perfectly safe and regulated. The reality has been somewhat different over time.
The Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 (COMAH) implement the Seveso II Directive, and are important for controlling major accident hazards involving dangerous substances in Great Britain.
COMAH sites in England are controlled by The Environment Agency (EA), and The Health and Safety Executive, (HSE)– “the competent authority” that governs health and safety at work legislation in the UK, and also investigates failures- as occurred in the infamous phosphine fire at this site in 2009.
Let us first look at the definitions that the HSE uses when it talks of “hazard” and “risk”.
THE PDF LINK BELOW GIVES AN OVERVIEW OF Solvay’s COMAH site, where it is revealed that the hazard and risk are elevated because of the chemicals being stored and used on this site. .
If you can’t be bothered to read that, then here are the basic facts about the chemicals already stored on this site and the risks involved with them.
We will return to Solvay’s emergency alarms in due course.
Furthermore the risks associated with this top tier site are revealed to be
“Nature of major accident hazards:
Accidental release of dangerous substances
Explosion – Levels of blast overpressure which may be harmful to humans and animals and damage buildings. Projectiles travelling at high speeds may also spread from the explosion presenting a risk to people, animals and damage buildings. Explosions may also initiate fires.
Fire – Ranges from an intense fire lasting several seconds to large fires lasting several minutes or hours. Potential for fire damage to people and the environment and fires may spread to other areas, a drifting cloud of flammable gas may ignite. Fires may generate smoke clouds which may lead to breathing difficulties and deposition of soot on property and vegetation.”
That’s really great isn’t it and right on the doorsteps of many homes that probably are blissfully unaware!
I have outlined Solvay’s existing Hazardous substance consents on this website- because unfortunately Sandwell council- the local authority that has granted every one of them appears to have decided to deny local people the opportunity to view these hazards and risks associated with this vile chemical factory by erasing them from its planning website. It is unclear how this fits in with their so called “2030 vision”- but I will remind people of that near the end of this post and the divergence of this Oldbury from their vision.
HS/040 THE DETAILS
Solvay are seeking an increase in pressure for their use of the chemical they failed to control in 2009- the toxic highly flammable gas PHOSPHINE.
They are also seeking consent for new substances, HEXENE, HYDROGEN PEROXIDE 35%, and CYANEX 923- A mixture of the substances hexyldioctylphosphine oxide, dihexyloctylphosphine oxide, and trioctylphosphine oxide . I will outline the risks associated with all of these substances below.
The application form can be downloaded below.
Of all of the chemicals that this company could have applied for variation of, this one really does take the piss, and no wonder they do not want public scrutiny about it!
This substance was originally permissioned by Hazardous substance consent HS/008 in 1992.
Firstly let’s look at the chemical hazard. Here is what the then Health Protection Agency (now Public Health England) saw about the risks of phosphine and incident management.
One notes from this
“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 …”
The following safety data sheet has been provided by Solvay- incidentally using the Rhodia brand -who were responsible for a phosphine toxic uncontrolled release occurring 😆
Just to be clear, there is no difference between the two companies, just the name.
Rhodia/solvay identify that phosphine is “very toxic by inhalation”, “causes burns”, there is a ” risk of serious damage to eyes”, “inhalation may be fatal”, and it is “very toxic to aquatic organisms”. GOT THAT?
This application is mired in semantics about what Solvay actually intend to do with this chemical- but they fail to answer if they are INCREASING the amount of phosphine or DECREASING the amount of phosphine on site- instead talking about increasing the pressure used- which can only increase the risk. Even if they are decreasing the amount, does this hide the risk with the associated increase in pressure used?
The 2009 phosphine fire at this site laid bare the risks, the hazards and the failures of Rhodia- with the same HSE director Tom Dutton in control who makes this application for the rebranded “Solvay” . Incidentally at the time of the HS/008 application in 1992, as an Albright and Wilson employee he was then listed as “risk prevention manager”. 😆
Here is the HSE outline of what happened that day and how it made international news when there was an uncontrolled release of 37kg of phosphine and associated breakdown products.
As for Solvay’s much heralded alarm system, they did not sound the alarm , as stated in the HSE investigation quite bloody laughably blaming this on West Midlands fire service for the following reason.
I will look a little more about this uncontrolled phosphine release/fire and the atrocious failures in the summing up of this post.
The new consent seeks permission for 27 tonnes of this highly flammable liquid substance.
The safety data sheet provided with the Solvay submission is 48 pages long and too large a file to download here, but here are the key points.
Just another flammable risk to local residents then.
The following safety data sheet is submitted by Solvay with this application. They seek to use 50 tonnes of this material on site.
Here are the key facts
Much as the chemical industry love to portray their hazardous substances in mundane terms to equate them with seeming innocuous everyday uses, the “hair dye” is anything but safe on this site. Indeed, in today’s terms it has been used of late by Isis inspired terrorists across Europe as a component in pressure cooker bombs. The risk is that it is an oxidiser and increase the risk of fire immensely. Given that this site deals with a whole host of already flammable and explosive substances does one feel that this inclusion of this particular chemical will increase or decrease the risk of explosion to the general public?
This is another potential semantic tool used to describe three separate substances. The quantity applied for is also 50 tonnes. This is one of Solvay’s own shit mixes as evidenced by the following safety data sheet is submitted by Solvay in the application.
And this one is also an embryo kiddy killer , as well as causing damage to virility gentlemen.
It is also worth pointing out some of the breakdown products of this mixture.
Other documents are supplied with the Solvay application. Click to view.
A site location plan
A substance location plan for Hydrogen peroxide and cyanex. NB THESE SUBSTANCES ARE TO BE STORED ACROSS THE WHOLE SOLVAY SITE AS EVIDENCED BY THE PLAN S2 AND S3
Locations for phosphine and Hexene are shown on the following plan.
There are other extracts of Solvay’s COMAH report which are very interesting which appear to date from 2016.
This gives a breakdown of where employees at the factory (stated to be around 150), are typically located in each of the plants across the site. A handy plan is located at the end of this part of the report.
This plan gives a handy radius of the “blast site” and occupancy of residential properties and amenities within it. It is interesting to note that this stretches to a circumference of 1.8 km from the epicentre of the factory and includes 10 schools. .
There is little but very basic information here about a range of scenarios. The whole COMAH report would make interesting reading, and I think that I will be getting my hands on this for dissection sometime soon. 👿
And so then let’s return to Solvay and what happened in 2009. You could hear some folk say lessons have been learnt” blah blah blah, but the proof is when the shit hits the fan and something goes wrong. You can practice all you like, pat yourself on the back and wallow in self congratulatory praise with a bunch of “professionals” who also were seen to totally fuck up that January morning when something went awry.
This is what the HSE found in their report.
They could not even get the basic fire fighting methods correct.
THEY FAILED TO SOUND THE TOXIC GAS ALARM TO WARN THE LOCAL RESIDENTS THAT THERE WAS A LEAK.
In addition, they
- invented release data to attempt to downgrade the incident
- obstructed the HSE investigation making it extend beyond a reasonable period of time
- Did not make contact with vulnerable premises
- Lied about past incidents on site
DOES THIS SOUND LIKE A GOOD NEIGHBOUR?
So let’s return to the one question. WHAT TYPE OF OLDBURY DO PEOPLE WANT TO SEE, AND WHAT IS SANDWELL COUNCIL’S VISION?
We currently appear to have an increasing risk of danger to life and health from premises such as those at PO Box 80. There have been fires at other hazardous sites, and there have been fires at so called “recycling” premises near to this site that were also permissioned by Sandwell council in their wisdom and felching for local business. There are also mounds of unsanctioned tipped waste that appear never to be removed. AND OF COURSE THERE ARE TOXIC HAZARDOUS WASTE DUMPS WHERE FUCKING IDIOTS AND TAX AVOIDERS APPEAR TO THINK IT IS A GOOD IDEA TO BUILD MORE HOUSES.
Plans to build more houses inside the blast zone and in plain sight of this chemical anus belcher are already in the pipeline.
“THE CONSULTATION ZONE”
Incredibly in their application, Tom Dutton states
“Note that if it is deemed that this application could result in a change to the consultation distance then we would be willing to impose further conditions to mitigate against this.”
Well how very gracious of this Solvay director, but he is in no position to be “imposing conditions”- this is the job of the “competent authority”. The fact that this application appears to rest in the hands of one totally unqualified Sandwell planning officer means that we will only have one named person to blame if this is passed without real scrutiny and something happens.
Are people aware that their homes may suddenly be enveloped into a COMAH blast zone?
If there is no change to the zone, (and who is going to make that call), if something goes wrong then are we going to go round in circles that everyone had a chance to do something but did nothing , just to accommodate this dirty industrial polluter and its sliding European centred chemical trade?
As for those claiming that Solvay success is “good for the local economy” and the like, they need to get a reality check. Employ a few local people it may, but not nearly as many as it used to. One can also look at those in senior positions who live nowhere near the blast zone by personal choice, in places like Malvern , just as the fox hunt loving Albright and Wilson’s did back in the day. Perhaps they may see a faint glow as the beacon of Oldbury lights up the starry sky dimmed by increasing night light pollution from overdevelopment.
But what of Sandwell council’s “vision”
Does a factory like Solvay with its increasing hazards sound like ambition 8 of the strategy?
“families will be choosing to move into and stay in Sandwell and be proud of their town”
Really? Does this include the managers and directors at Solvay? Not bloody likely.
Does ambition 2 fit in with hosting more hazardous substances in Oldbury?
There is already the problem of air pollution from the motorway system, and what of uncontrolled emissions and the increased risk of them?
I will be objecting to this proposal partly just for jolly to stop the Solvay schemers.
But I will also be objecting because this isn’t the vision of Oldbury that I want to see; an increasing economic Russian roulette for conmen, crooks, wealthy speculators and fucking crooked bastards- and that’s just the political class of the area.
You can join with me and stop Solvay and save Oldbury by objecting to this hazardous substance consent by contacting Sandwell council before 17th August. Cite the reference of the following below.
Contact the local councillors of this area and see if they care more about local people than a Belgian owned chemical company with its links to a former French civil servant.
THE FUTURE OF OLDBURY IS IN YOUR HANDS, JUST DON’T LEAVE IT TO SOLVAY AND BECOME THEIR HUMAN SHIELDS.