An audience with Tonka- Carry on up the Sandwell jungle

 

A great man visited Sandwell  last Tuesday, The West Midlands Mayor Andy Street.

The free event at the now festively decorated Oldbury Kremlin offered

“A chance for residents of Sandwell and the wider West Midlands, to come and ask Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, about the issues that matter to them in a relaxed Q & A format.”

I attended this event to ask Mr Street (aka Tonka the great), about the ludicrous Dudley port Supplementary planning document, to be discussed by Sandwell’s cabinet later this week.

Not only is this document a fraudulent land scam attempting to con potential developers/investors and other  people that the housing allocation sites (not in Dudley Port) are wonderful, but that rattlechain lagoon and all its associated still toxic history can be condensed into one single bucket known as “the wet tip”.

Tonka’s little helpers

I have not met Mr Street before but his friendly school teacherish demeanour was in stark contrast to many of the local elected in Sandwell.

A disappointing turn out was noted in that around just two dozen people filed into the empty council chamber for the meet and greet. Most notable was the lack of representation from Sandwell’s elected members. Where were they, or do they just boycott such events because their man didn’t win in the election that nobody wanted?

The Mayor was cordial and greeted almost everyone with a shake of the hand and accommodating smile. This was he stated a chance to demonstrate ” politics in the raw”, and so it would prove with a few bruising questions ranging from controversially allocating monies towards younger people instead of  middle aged ladies in relation to concessionary travel passes and what he was doing to reduce homelessness.

My question concerned the land around rattlechain being promoted in “the garden city” nonsense by Sandwell council.

Would your administration and the WMCA be comfortable giving grant aid money to this dodgy land scheme prospectus- the Dudley port so called “garden city” , when one of the site allocation sites that no one locally wants to see developed is registered to an off shore company based in Jersey?

Isn’t it a bit embarrassing that when one local MP is saying “end tax havens now”, that Sandwell council is actively promoting a dodgy land prospectus that would benefit a company registered in a tax haven?” Would you give money to benefit that company registered in Jersey,that’s the first part of my question?

Whose blot JR?

By way of cutting a long story short, and one that I will go into in due course, the former brickworks area and Duport’s tip, as well as other surrounding land registry titles (which needs to be separated from rattlechain lagoon as it is not connected in any way), is “owned” 😆 by a company called “DENVER LIMITED” registered in Jersey.

The reference to the MP – Tom Watson was revealed recently when he unfurled a banner in West Bromwich in the presence of Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn proclaiming “END TAX HAVENS NOW.”

picture Express and Star

It was also stated that Gordon Brown when also visiting the borough recently invited by Mr Watson stated that tax havens were “one of the greatest scandals of our times.” Quite!

So why then are Labour Sandwell promoting development opportunities for “Denver”?

This was Andy Street’s reply:

“Well, definitely polluted land is perhaps the important part of this. It’s my assumption of what you’re talking about here is the land remediation fund- which is designed specifically to deal with heavily polluted land, and again that is something that I am a strong believer in , that we have to bring that land back into use so that’s my guess what that is about.

Now any allocation of funding from that fund, we’ve been very clear; we’ve set the criteria for how it will be judged so no-one can say afterwards about the combined authority “you’ve inappropriately spent this.”

..and so any application would have to be measured against all of those criteria to find suitable value for money, and actually to know that the developer is of reputable quality.”

I then further elucidated on the central issue surrounding this site and asked about why Sandwell should have to accommodate more density of population, when it already has the highest number of people living in any of the Black country boroughs and the highest density per hectare. This is demonstrated by the 2011 census figures shown below- i.e Sandwell has 36 people per hectare compared with the West Midlands and National figure of just 4.

Source: office of national statistics

Source: office of national statistics

2011 census figures

I provide relevant highlighted links to these claims as citations.

“This site, the one next to it is one of the most contaminated in Europe. It contains tens of tonnes of white phosphorus that has poisoned birds; systemically poisoned birds. There’s a long history associated with it, a long history of cover ups. But specifically in Sandwell, this is just a figure for you if you are not aware, it already has a density of population ; this is from the last census- 36 people per hectare of land. That compares nationally with 4 people per hectare in the West Midlands and nationally.

Can I ask therefore- why as a representative , our representative , our champion are you not going to the likes of Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Shropshire and Staffordshire and telling those people they have got to give up their green belt land for housing, and that is where the new towns have got to be situated?”

Mr Street replied that “The answer is we are doing both.” He cited and example of the fund being used recently in Telford.

I note however that the population of Telford and Wrekin according to their council’s website was in 2016 just 169,400 – nearly half that of Sandwell .

I’ll leave people with the two graphics below showing a comparison of area size of Sandwell and Telford and Wrekin, and question if building just 500 new homes in the latter yet expecting more to be built in the former in just one tiny area- i.e “Dudley Port” is in any way “fair”.

Mr Street continued;

“Despite what you’ve said about density, I do believe that actually we have to tackle these brownfield contaminated sites. If we don’t, the bext generation will face exactly the same issues , and again I think it is a good thing that the combined authority and the devolution deal which I was a part of negotiating, got cash to do exactly that. Its hard, it’s difficult, but it’s the right thing to do.

You made a quote where it sounds dreadfully contaminated and it should be examined and it’s not right that it should just sit there for another ten years.”

I then raised the issue that The Black Country Development Coporation had made similar platitudes during its lifetime back in the 1990’s yet had failed but Mr Street retorted that he couldn’t be held accountable for that but on this new devolution deal.

 

Stick em up

Julian Saunders (aka the Sandwell skidder who has been instrumental in uncovering gross corruption by councillors and officers within the rotten borough of Sandwell then pressed on the tax haven funding issue which the Mayor had not dealt with.

“The general point on that- (long pause), It’s not what one would hope for quite frankly, but I er, I don’t think we can rule it out just for that. We could set a criteria, I don’t think we’ve done it but I always hope and my record on this which I’ve made very clear- I’ve always said that companies must be domiciled here, must pay their tax here , that was the debate with amazon . So I think I’ve got good form on this but can’t actually rule something out in this of being able to apply for the fund.”

I have uploaded the full question and answer concerning this issue below. Click to listen.

VN850452

Mr Street’s one hour appearance in Sandwell certainly couldn’t be described as a fact finding mission, but I hope he finds time to find out more about Rattlechain lagoon, the issues around it and the people who live around it who do not in any way want the ridiculous “garden city”. They are fully aware of the misery that was undertaken in the 1990’s despite promises from the BCDC and others that were utter piles of crap.

Is it really a good vision of suffering years of misery and blight to then be rewarded with greater population density by those who have no intention of ever living in such a place themselves?

People in this area are not going to see cartoon animals finding out about Christmas or bouncing up and down on trampolines whilst finding a friendly monster under their beds.

Mr Street needs to understand this situation before money is transferred to any shovels in the ground. Hopefully he will not be remembered as the man who gave a blank cheque to tax avoiders on behalf of the tax payer.

ABOVE ALL THE PEOPLE WHO CONTAMINATED THE LAND, OVERTIPPED WASTE THERE SHOULD PAY IN FULL FOR ANY REMEDIATION AND STUDIES.

In that regard “DENVER LIMITED” in Jersey  is not as far removed from this as it would seem.

 

#STOP AND SMASH THE GARDEN CITY

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Albright’s toxic archive links #4- The Gunn’s of Toblerone

 

 

Another in the continuing saga of “The Oldbury smell” – you just can’t keep that kitty down!

I have previously outlined how this had all started in The Albright and Wilson Oil additives plant.

This ongoing social menace of the smell of cat piss had endured not just locally but much further afield across Birmingham. The indefatigable Councillor Gunn had led the fight against the brutal Albright puss against their apologists within her council.

Sticking to her Gunns, Madame Edith appears to have been one to not let the matter rest. I have to say I’m starting to grow rather fond of Mrs Gunn as she had more balls than anyone else in this most rotten of borough council’s , standing her ground and up to the Trinity Street terrorists, who obviously considered themselves far too important and worldly to worry about “local” issues. Prior to waiving her withered bush demonstrating the destructive powers of the Albright chemical fallout,  this article appeared on 5th May 1956 in The Birmingham Post.

Threat of legal action

“LOCAL PEOPLE ARE INCENSED”- (AND NOT WITH INCENSE)

This is quite an explosive piece, as it demonstrates a rare but clear purpose of not sucking up to local business. It also demonstrates that local people were not on the side of this company, whatever more recent history has had to claim about how important they were in the area. The post master who had endured the war years in his post claimed it was “a menace”.

It is this type of story that matters and that I want to hear more of. Unbiased, grassroots, candid and not more about people who worked for the company looking back with rose tinted glasses about how wonderful it all was.

PLAINLY IT WAS FUCKING SHOCKING TO LIVE IN LANGLEY AT THIS TIME AND ALBRIGHT AND WILSON WERE RUINING PEOPLE’S LIVES. THIS STORY NEEDS TO BE PUT MORE AND RECORDED IN LOCAL HISTORY. MAKING CHEMICALS IN OLDBURY WERE MAKING PEOPLE SICK.

Clearly Bottomley’s statement of AW is utter lies. He and this company were fully aware of this problem and had been for many years. Why else would they have previously claimed to have put a stop to it and that it “was on it’s way out”?

But a year later after this article and after the now infamous tree had been brandished in Oldbury, Albright and Wilson were at it again- this time causing havoc on Birmingham’s chocolate confectionary- in Peaky blinder’s territory in Small Heath in the centre of Birmingham! The Birmingham Post was on the case in this November 30th 1957 article.

Cat piss cremes anyone?

The claims in this article by the company that it had made “a slight emission of gas” from their factory anus is laughable. Obviously that this had travelled over seven miles and could be smelt means that the amount was obviously not “slight”.

We also have to be extremely dubious about no health concerns. Not only did this company lie to their own staff at this point in history, the fact that they had already been threatened with legal action and widespread public condemnation meant that they would never admit to anything injurious to public health. We also get the usual bullshit from the Oldbury official with a PR statement for the company- Doctor paid well no doubt.

The other statement concerning employees of the company “bursting with health” is also laughable. Not only were they still getting phossy jaw at this point in history, as will be revealed in subsequent posts, they were also contending with multiple leaks, fires and fatalities- all caused by chemicals that they were handling.

No doubt if the agent chocolate orange fumes had tainted their fellow Quaker freaks chocolate at Cadburys in Bourneville , Albright and Wilson would have shut the process down.

Choctopussy

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Barnett and his brickworks- fatal falls

There are so many layers comprised within the Rattlechain site and its history, and just when I thought I had got to the bottom of one aspect, up surprisingly pops another piece of the jigsaw which reveals a new set of research.

Samuel Barnett’s part in this sorry tale- digging the marl hole that would become the lagoon was obviously not without its dangers. We of course know quite a bit about the 1899 canal breach, but little of what happened after this at the site in the following years. The excellent British Newspaper archive has again turned up something surprising which I have not read about before, which is very odd as it involved the deaths of some of his workforce at the site. Unlike the breach, these deaths claimed the lives of two men who were erecting a new brick chimney at the works.

The following article was published in The Birmingham Daily Gazette on 23rd January 1906.

We learn here that this new structure was around 150 feet high when three workers were involved during  its collapse.

Richard Millerchip of Chapel Street , and Benjamin Astle of Peartree Street, both West Bromwich paid with their lives and died in their trade by building for Barnett. Another man Harry Hunt was also seriously injured by the falling bricks.

Another article from the Wellington Journal on 27th January 1906 states that Millerchip was descending the stack when it gave way,

A further article from the Gloucestershire Echo reveals the ages of the two men, Millerchip 28 and Astle 22. There is gruesome detail about both men’s necks being broken and Astle being buried beneath ten tonnes of masonry.

Named in this article is the contractor working for Barnett- a Mr Hadlington also of West Bromwich.

I have also now found the coroners verdict on this “accident”, with  Samuel Barnett and his endeavours appearing to conjure a myriad of them, including his own when he lost an arm. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hadlington blamed the dead. This 25th January article from the Birmingham Daily gazette blames Richard Millerchip for leaning over the edge and also frost thawing out the mortar when a fire was lit. It is unclear from this article and the first if Astle fell or was fallen upon.

Who needs Fred Dibnah?

No doubt this setback at the works was soon remedied by someone else stepping into the dead men’s shoes. We have an idea of a scale of this finished article from a picture of the stack in 1950, overlooking the now watery lagoon that Albright and Wilson would have been dumping in.

scan0010
A similar structurethe J.N Lester Bradford Iron works chimney on The Walsall Canal dated from 1882, and still surviving would perhaps show what this deadly erection would have looked like up close, and the riveted column design.
 
     
Barnett’s trials and tribulations I have looked into some detail at before, but two death notices about his own fatal fall also make an appearance some 12 years after this incident from The Birmingham Daily Post dated 9th May 1918.
This “accidental death” verdict at his inquest confirms the story about his horse and cart being startled by a traction engine.
An earlier article from the same paper dated 7th May confirms he died in hospital after being thrown , but the fact that he was being driven by his son is the new surprising information here. I had always assumed he was riding himself, but the name “Bert Barnett” also appears to have sustained serious injuries from the collision with a lamppost.
Unlike Barnett, the names of Richard Millerchip and  Benjamin Astle have been lost to history and the dusts of the brickwork demise. There are no streets named after them and they have been long forgotten with the bricks that fell on their heads which made their boss a very rich man. Of course we have history to speculate on the exact circumstances of Barnett’s own demise, but “pony and trap” is probably the best epitaph for the legacy of this man in the Tividale area.
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Albright’s toxic archive links #3 Enough to make your skin crawl

In a previous post I spoke about how one councillor had stood her ground and called out Albright and Wilson regarding their obscene pollution and smell blighting the local area of Oldbury. It’s just surprising she wasn’t replaced with a Stepford clone. There is no doubt at this time that disparity between the sexes and racial diversity in local politics was prominent.

Unfortunately the then Chairman of the Oldbury health committee- (the origin of the pollution affecting residents across the wider West Midlands), appeared impassive but linking the company with the council as though they were almost one and the same. We learn the following from this 8th May 1957 Birmingham Post article.

A follow up article appeared in The Birmingham Post on 23 August 1957“£100,000 to end smell at Oldbury.”

This piece, is I am afraid yet more typical Public relations spin, and a reaction to what had obviously taken them by surprise- a comrade (Mrs Gunn)  not on side and prepared to speak out.

Supposedly the firm would be spending a large amount of money to basically prevent ill health that they were causing and perpetuating a statutory nuisance. Of course one could ask serious questions of this Oldbury council in that it totally failed to achieve its basic function- protecting public health of its citizens. As has been evidenced in other articles– this dire health situation had been going on for over eight years under the chairmanship of one man. Did anyone call for his resignation?

Unfortunately, and as I have learned, local authorities protect business polluters and put them first, with the smell of lucre operating in unison. A “joint” statement had been arrived at stating that the smell would be dealt with and that any thereafter would be as a result of “occasional mishap”. This isn’t really anything different to what Albright and Wilson had been claiming for years- yet the smell had persisted.

This is also a typical PR ploy. Contain the current disaster, and present a pretty picture of the future and talk of “lessons learnt” etc. “The destructive power of the fumes” could not however be easily contained. Not only would the application take nearly a year to complete, but only disperse the existing pollution to a higher level- so that’s alright then.

Though no name is mentioned in this second piece, one figure mentioned in the many previous articles is that of the Health Committee Chairman- one Samuel Thomas Melsom– a former mayor (1951-3) and Alderman of Olbury Council. Melsom had a long career as a local legislator, and was a leader of the Labour controlled authority and served on the powerful planning committee and public works commitee and as mentioned in the article- the health committee. He was also a JP and served on the Worcestershire health committees outside the area. He was awarded an OBE “For public services in Oldbury, Worcestershirein 1955.

And that is where my appreciation of him ends. Let’s divert for a while away from the smell of chemicals and focus on the stench of business/political back slapping.

This was still an era where businessmen could buy their way into the legislator framework and where civic society revolved around the rolling up of trouser legs and funny hand shakes. Businessmen were awarded “freemen” status like confetti, and there was no better time than at coffin carrying ceremonies where the civic dignitaries could all gather together to pay eulogy to one of their own self important pompous cretins demise.

Such an occasion of a passing reveals more about Melsom when W. W Hackett– a much feted son of Oldbury popped his clogs  a few years later in 1964.

Here is what we learn about Melsom’s connection to his former boss, loving Walter, and the chemical industry in Oldbury.

Accles and Pollock were another Oldbury firm in the mould of Albright and Wilson. Like Albright and Wilson they left behind an old marlhole mess lake of acid in Shidas lane in Oldbury that has now been infilled by Mintworth, who have desires to do the same with Rattlechain. Small world eh?

AP  had connections with AW and it is stated in this article from The Birmingham post that amongst the many attendees at this shin dig were Ken Wilson of the founder family.

Just four years earlier (what a coincidence), Wilson, Melsom and Hackett had all been awarded “freeman” status, perhaps the letters “so” were missing. :-P. Another named Robbins– whom I believe had followed in a long line of others in the family with a man named Urban Robbins having worked for Albright and Wilson in the 19th Century, also received this honour with them. .

As thick as thieves

 

It is this pomposity and  white pride hidden behind false “industrial heritage” and civic life that really pisses me off the most about how these characters amongst others have been paraded and cemented in fake history archives throughout history. We have to endure their statues, their pictures in ceremonial robes, their busts, their blue plaques, the street names named after them and worst of all the nepotism – just about everything that puts us in a position of inferiority to those who could buy power and position. Homage to our “betters”.  No one really cares about these self appointed “community leaders” or “business leaders” in life or death,  but to these people in their circles of position this meant everything- as does that word “legacy”.

Wilson’s record

For some reason the civic firm- operating like a controlling mafia includes not just the political family dynasty facilitators and council officer lackies but businessmen ,the press, the local police and judiciary. We are being controlled by these bastards to the present day, and their ceremonies, their parades, their customs and fake history continue to control all our lives by their design in some form of debt.

Melsom, I believe in his position on health committees was one of those who ensured our water supplies are regulated with a poison that Albright and Wilson and his mate Wilson offloaded as a waste product. For some reason however he resigned as Labour leader in Oldbury at short notice for “personal reasons” in June 1964. Who knows, perhaps a Bill Thomas moment or a Brutas plot?

But not long after this resignation, we get this, and learn that Melsom turned “traitor” amongst the comrades facing possible expulsion and accepted a continued chairmanship of the two committees on the  new CON/LIB pact administration.

Blackball

 

On returning to the Oldbury smell of Albright and Wilson, it didn’t end however, unlike Melsom’s career shillery for local business and his own self preservation. This article below from December 5th 1957 sums up both his failed administration and chairmanship, and the firm of Albright and Wilson, when it is claimed that the latter’s factory pollution causing the smell will now be dumped into the North Sea! What a great environmental solution.

Another reference to new equipment

Melsom appears here as the company advocate- because I have absolutely no doubt he was their longstanding boy and fixer in the community. A man Friday servant of the Oldbury chemical industry illuminati. The “watery grave”, I believe would not be the North Sea at all- why would they transport all the crap of their operations to Scotland for dumping when they had at their disposal two local tips- one “watery” in the Tividale area?

At this particular time in history, Tividale lay in Rowley Regis (Staffordshire)- controlled by a different council– and outside of Melsom’s reach- though it would of course transfer back at a later date (1966) into “Warley”. It would however in 1957 have got it out of “Oldbury” and away out of plain site of his and Albright and Wilson’s back yard. Also of course away from Mrs Gunn’s withered bush and washing. A win-win situation for all surely?

Cat above Rattlechain toxic waste lagoon

Barrels of waste are admitted to have been dumped for many years into rattlechain lagoon, as well as The Gower Tip. I have seen them myself and some were recovered during the joke “clean up works” of 2013. I have no doubt that “the Oldbury Smell” from the oil additives plant went there, and still lies beneath the water, sunk out of sight and linked to all the other white phosphorus contaminated waste which joined it.

20130306-133646(005)

People like Melsom show that politics is possibly the only dirtier business in history than Albright and Wilson, but really they are just inextricably linked.

 

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Albright’s toxic archive links #2 The Winds of “pore”

 

By 1957 people living locally in Langley had obviously been long suffering of a notorious “Oldbury smell”.  But before Mrs Gunn and her withered bush , it is clear from other articles published in the Birmingham Gazette that not only was Albright and Wilson destroying the quality of life locally, but much further afield. As always I endeavour on this blog to get to the heart of this pong, where others would simply print factory lies.

 

The story begins post war. The following article from 17th December 1949.

The article states that the stench even reached the posh area of Sutton Coldfield- so no wonder The Ministry of Health were getting involved. 😡 Mentioned in this article is one Alderman Samuel Thomas Melsom. More on him to come, as his name and longstanding position as chair of the health committee appear frequently in connection with this rotten odour.

From 5th July of 1950 we then arrive at another article

“FRESH AIR IS DENIED IN BROADWELL AND CENTRAL WARDS”

“Over a year ago complaints poured in yet the nuisance continues. It is offensive and nauseating and people complain they taste it in their food. I have reason to believe it causes vomiting.” Dr Hazem Barrada.

Quite incredible that all the latter day Albright and Wilson works management spinners and PR merchants were forever claiming great things about food and their company- yet here they were literally poisoning people’s food.

The source of the Tom, was actually from a post war venture between America and AW in the form of the oil additives plant. To blame for this deal we have war dodger W.B Albright and fellow home guard poser Sydney Barratt, who in 1944 went on a trip to America to survey the scene.

We learn from 100 years of phosphorus making

“One of the plants for some time emitted a far-reaching, persistent and most objectionable smell, known for many miles around Oldbury as ‘The Tom cat’. It brought the company into much tribulation with the local authorities until it was tracked down and ‘killed’.

This tomb was written in 1951, and as can be evidenced in subsequent years, it obviously had nine lives because the author was lying. 😆

“The Oldbury smell”- located at source near Trinity Street

A subsequent article appeared on 27th July 1950

This is a badly worded article that appears as though it was written quickly from a press release. Alderman “smellsome” appears to have some remarkable inside knowledge of the factory plant and its smelly old Tom, yet appears to offer no immediate remedy- such as shutting it down. Mentions of the ministry of health inspectors and doctors getting involved are appear important , yet it would be seen that this was also little more than appearing to try to pacify the “sleepless” community affected.

That Albright and Wilson’s business model and profit would be affected if the plant were to close shows how much they were favoured ahead of public health.

The next Gazette article from 1953 is somewhat bizarre, as it omits to mention “the chemical firm” involved in this disgusting industrial pollution! Instead we get one of those typical PR pieces where lazy journalists print verbatim a press release without challenge. Unfortunately this practice continues to the present day with many local titles.

“The smell arises only when a mistake is made during manufacture of a particular chemical and is due to a side reaction”. Oh how comforting.

The statement from this company defies belief and parody. No thanks for preventing their smell “Just brickbats” when they don’t. 😆  😆 The claim about it being “not detrimental to health” is another of those great chemical industry myths put about when something goes wrong. When a link with ill health is made they then move onto “not enough being found” to prove ill health. When enough is found to prove ill health they then try to claim it could have been something else. This was the case with asbestos and cancer- yet Albright and Wilson had their own health advising liars long after this era telling their workforce lies.

“The Great” (not my term), Nye Bevan even appears to have been unable to fix Albright and Wilson’s chimney coughs as Health Minister- so it was left to the company itself. Unfortunately this self regulation is something which Albright and Wilson appear to have become accustomed to throughout the 20th Century resulting in pollution and contamination for which they appeared unimpeachable.

By 30th March 1954 even Harold Macmillan was getting involved according to The Birmingham Daily Post article, but he couldn’t give any promises about further outbreaks!

 

We do get mention that the Smell originating from a factory premises in Oldbury is lingering over Smethwick. Nonsense in this article mentions about plant improvements, but they weren’t improvements were they if the smell persisted and these were just “mistakes”? What a ludicrous mind set to take.

New plant?

The most interesting comment on this concerns reference to a “waste refuse tip” and “decontamination”. I wonder if this in reality meant moving the smell from the centre of Oldbury to a satellite “waste refuse tip”  in Tividale?

.

Hey folks- and guess what- it didn’t end there. 😮 On 6th October the Birmingham Post were hot on the case. This time white smoke was rising with it! And here we see mention of The Gunns. Clothing is soiled upon the lines and windows deposited in filth .

“I can promise there will be protests at the next council meeting.”

Once again S.T Melsom makes promises to act. It can be seen later of course that he failed to act- but why?

Blue plaque

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Albright’s toxic archive links #1- The smell of pussy and withering bush

It is almost uniformly agreed, even amongst the shills and apologists of this longstanding industrial polluter that Albright and Wilson stank and pumped forth pollution so bad in terms of smell that it resembled the odour of cat piss.

I have recently been delving into The British newspaper archive cuttings to research some of this companies greatest (s)hits which were Made in Oldbury– and this is the first in a continuing series and it isn’t going to be arty- farty poems or rose tinted romantic views of past events.

This one is a classic from The Birmingham post and gazette –Wednesday July 3rd 1957 entitled “Withered Leaves of Oldbury Victims of ‘smell’ “

It details the sight of a Mrs E.M Gunn, a local councillor and resident flaunting and waving her withered bush in front of the then Oldbury Town Council. 😛

Not mentioned is what effect it may have had on blighting or shrivelling her fellow councillor husband Alf’s taters. 🙁

But this is no laughing matter and is actually a very rare example of a local Labour councillor of this area actually committing veritable heresy and standing up to the industrial polluters- (perhaps in context as she lived across the street in Titford Road) and noted “The pollution of the atmosphere at Langley has become unbearable.”

The blighted road

“At 8.30 this morning it was impossible to see across the road. We were enveloped in a cloud of fog.” she continued.

Incredibly but not surprisingly she was told by Albright and Wilson management that it would continue every four hours until the wind changed direction! Well some comfort there then, but not that different from the Trinity Street terrors failure to sound toxic gas alarms more recently.

She then whipped out the dying tree from her garden, though the variety is not named.

“If it does this to the trees, what does it do to us”?

“The deadly effect of the Oldbury smell upon her garden”. Something like this?

This is not the first time I have heard this about pollution killing plants coming from an Albright and Wilson source  as well as leaving holes in net curtains.

Mrs Gunn further spoke about Langley having “no choice” but to put up with the situation and that the council had “dilly-dallied” long enough.

Supporting her observations about the “appalling” situation at the committee were Councillors Thompson and Price.

We do however get the considered 🙄 opinion of the health committee chairman Alderman S.T Melsom– almost straight from the type of PR spin machine that I recognise today about how the council was liaising with the firm and offering some distant prospect of a new plant (not a living one) being installed at the site.

I will be taking a closer look at this individual and his involvement in the area in another post.

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Charity begins at home?

For all the millions made and sold in Oldbury, the long suffering community of Langley has Arthur Albright to thank for a small park near to the factory. His generosity meant that for a reported 6 years he paid for it himself, where after that the burden fell onto taxpayers of subsequent councils to manage- how very generous of him.

We know how much the two Quaker gentlemen left, and the toxic legacy they left behind, but what of the company in later years when it came to community generosity? It is known that they paid for a local history book print run which contained a virtual free advertising space for their company PR machine.

From the accounts of the changing company based at Trinity Street, disclosures of how much they have donated to charity nationally are revealed. It is quite odd to see that the amounts over time have plummeted since the days of Albright and Wilson and one may draw what conclusions they like from this about French and Belgian socialism.

Here are the figures starting from 1991.

Albright and Wilson 1991- £50,500

Albright and Wilson 1992- £46,000

Albright and Wilson 1993- £62,000

Albright and Wilson 1994- £56,000

Albright and Wilson 1995- £52,000

Albright and Wilson 1996- £47,000

Albright and Wilson 1997- £88,000

Albright and Wilson 1998- £41,000

Rhodia Consumer Specialties 1999- £36,000

Rhodia Consumer Specialties 2000- £15,000

Rhodia Consumer Specialties 2001- £7,000

Rhodia Consumer Specialties 2002- £13,000

Rhodia UK Limited 2003- £6,000

Rhodia UK Limited 2004- £1,542

Rhodia UK Limited 2005- £7,880

Rhodia UK Limited 2006- £2,728

Rhodia UK Limited 2007- £3,924

Rhodia UK Limited 2008- £3,098

Rhodia UK Limited 2009- £590

Rhodia UK Limited 2010- £400

Rhodia UK Limited 2011- £1,654

Rhodia UK Limited 2012- £2,260

Solvay Solutions UK Limited 2013- £3,684

Solvay Solutions UK Limited 2014- £1,439

All of this may appear to be rather generous, but let’s remember that this is a multimillion outfit and under those terms these figures are absolute crumbs. Let’s also not draw into this equation what generous workers at this factory may give through salary sacrifice and other endeavours they have personally undertaken. This is the director corporate face of what a company has given, and under those terms it can only be all the more shame faced.

There are no figures given for subsequent reports, but it is quite clear to see how much Charity has dwindled since those 90’s “good times.” None of the charities are named, but in later years there are a couple of news stories which shed some light.

For example they were able to offer “The Friends of Langley Park” £1,000 some time around 2010.

An additional £600 was reported offered to the same group in 2013.

Not long after this Generous Solvay offered the services of a room to The Langley Band, as well as lighting up Langley at Christmas for their friends at Sandwell council -(when they are not doing so with fires from their plant) 😆

So where is this all going you may ask? Well there is a group called “the Langley Residents Association” which Solvay often mention in their news letters. It is known that representatives of these two organisations sit on this group- nothing wrong with that, but is it likely that those funded will be critical of a company giving them dosh, or even feel comfortable asking those awkward questions?

Tours

I am quite aware from personal experience of how the tea and biscuits are offered in those board room meetings, where Arthur and John’s portraits still no doubt loom large over the proceedings. Perhaps even the French fancies come out on special occasions these days? But come on Mr Clamadieu, looking at your charitable donations of late has your multinational multi billion Euro franchise fallen on such hard times that the paupers of Oldbury will go hungry this yule tide?

 

scan0018

“Mai, anyone would zinc we ad a bottomless pit!”

 

 

 

 

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The books of a dirty polluter #2

ENTER RHODIA

Continuing how Albright and Wilson ended and Rhodia began in Oldbury– basically just the same dirty polluting business as usual.

The first report in the Rhodia era outlines the complicated process of transferring around the large holdings of the phosphorus manufacturers.

We also at this time have another company divergence numbered 00036833 – also at 34 Clarendon Road, Watford, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, WD17 1JJ, which confirms the change of name from the Oldbury operation from “Albright and Wilson UK Limited” to “Rhodia consumer specialities Limited.”

 

 The following year saw the appointment of names familiar with the dealings at Rattlechain such as John Scott and Robert Tyler
In this year, external sales of the company are reported at £206,501,000. Oh they gave a miserly £15,000 to “charity” apparently in this year    🙄
Also in this report is the mention of the closure of Whitehaven– a significant nail in the coffin  into the Old Albright and Wilson brand.
The following years report is interesting in giving an inside account of the significant legionnaires outbreak, but this is a very different story to the one that was coming out of the site publicly. This was the testing of cooling towers in the Oldbury area including the ones at Trinity Street.
“Upon completion of the analysis of the samples the West Midlands Public Health Laboratory service informed the Director of Public health for Sandwell that it had identified legionella bacteria, of a kind which is harmful to human health in the samples taken from the company’s Oldbury site.
It also states that four people affected by the outbreak had sent letters before action to sue the company.  This is quite a different story to that offered by the press at the time.
We were of course at this time engaged with the liars of Trinity Street c/o Watford telling us fairy tales about their lake of death and the birds they had really poisoned with a banned rat poison.
Subsequent years accounts show RCS going further down the plughole in profits. There is no doubt, that at this time Rhodia were more environmentally retarded in their operations as opposed to flame retardant manufacturers at this point in time. They also flogged off their Avonmouth site- another AW relic. Oh, and thereby hangs another pollution story. 😆 

The dirty Rhodia business

shameful

Perhaps it came as no surprise that faced with such bad publicity for its operating shambles, Rhodia evolved and dropped its “consumer specialities” in September 2004, and became the “Rhodia UK limited” that we all know and love. 😆  😆
By this time, they had dwindled to just four directors, Messrs Scott, Steel, Tyler and the newly appointed Paul Brennan.
Subsequent director appointments would include familiar names such as Steve Hampson, Tom Dutton and John Hamnett– all tied in with the great Rattlechain bird death deception as well as PR merchant Beverly Miles.
 
Bizarrely, there is no mention whatsoever in the 2009 report about the significant incident regarding the fire and release of gas from the Trinity Street plant– or the potential risks associated with litigation. Perhaps this was “off the books”.  We also get no mention in reports about the 2013 cover up works at rattlechain, or the costs associated with this.
Yet another company, Company number 00213674 as we already know was created in this year known as “Rhodia Limited”, just as “Solvay Solutions Limited” ended the “Rhodia Uk Limited” moniker.
 
“Rhodia Limited” is officially the “company” now controlling Rattlechain lagoon- consisting of directors Tom Dutton, John Moorhouse and Alsion Murphy as secretary. It is of course a ruse to attempt to shield Solvay from direct linkage to this “closed” environmental fiasco, but they are inextricably linked to this site and its continued “monitoring”.
Meanwhile “Rhodia reorganisation Limited”  Company number 01134915  also continues to have Tom Dutton and Alison Murphy as directors.

It is the property of Solvay- as “Rhodia UK limited” no longer exists in name- they changed it in 2014.

 

Oh and as I know they read this blog, perhaps it’s time you filed the overdue accounts to companies house for Solvay Solutions UK Limited- just a little reminder……

 

 

 

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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.

Great!

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.

HERE IS THE NEW LESS REDACTED VERSION OF THE HSE REPORT.

THE BASIC FACTS

Blank original

unblanked

“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.

Phosphine_properties_incident_management_toxicology

“Phosphine

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 .”

blank

 

unblank

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

 

 

unblank

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?

redacted

 

Unredacted

 

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.

Really?!

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 TRUE FACE OF RHODIA

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.

H2270030

 

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.

ARE THEY ALL PISSING IN THE SAME POT?

 

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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.”

“Vomiting”

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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