Amongst the dozens of letters written over the years concerning wildfowl deaths at the Rattlechain lagoon, we have written to local members of Parliament, who have in turn communicated our concerns to Rhodia. The principal respondent to these letters was Tom Dutton, Health and Safety Director and long time former Albright and Wilsonite at Oldbury works- though we suspect they were largely drafted by PR and legal reps.
There is an art to spinning yarns, as MP’s also well know. What we look at below are some of the nonsense that Rhodia were trying to peddle to members of Parliament. We hope they were not stupid enough to have “swallowed it.”
Letter to Adrian Bailey MP
Having rescued many swans at the lagoon showing what we now know to be white phosphorus poisoning syptoms, a swan was retrieved from the lagoon on the evening of 10/3/08. This swan subsequently died. A post mortem could not establish a “cause of death”, largely because we knew nothing about white phosphorus poisoning of birds at the time.
- “The information” does not clarify the situation, but is an attempt to distract attention away from the chemical of concern which caused the deaths at the lagoon.
- It can be seen from the minutes of meetings held with Rhodia what information that they gave to swanwatch, and the notion that there were “solutions” to the problem ignore the fact that the only solution to prevent deaths was in their hands alone and no-one elses.
- “no direct link has ever been established between any deaths and the lagoon.” Thus this became the standard line which they trotted out upto the point when white phosphorus was finally tested for in a bird- and found. After a further 11 birds, which also confirmed exposure to the chemical in the lagoon which they dumped there, and the subsequent 2013 works which were under the guise of “protecting wildfowl”- we wonder if they will now accept that there was a direct link after all?
- The second paragraph forms the other technique that the chemical industry likes to use concerning length of use coupled with regulator monitoring. Both are meaningless when you look at how long they were getting away with a site that was poorly regulated, and not at all before 1978. Information relating to availability of information concerning what is stored in the lagoon is NOT “available” but hidden somewhere in the vaults of the environment agency offices in Lichfield- over 25 miles away from the site. The time and cost needed to pursue this make it difficult to access this information, and even then, who but an industrial chemist would be likely to be able to understand it fully?
- The third paragraph tries the old “small amounts” rubbish with which Tom Dutton has become synonimous. Various descriptions of what is contained in the waste have been given by Rhodia, Albright and Wilson and their agents over many years. WE KNOW THAT WHITE PHOPHORUS IS PRESENT IN THE SEDIMENT AND ACCESSIBLE IN ENOUGH QUANTITY TO POISON BIRDS MANY TIMES OVER- AS DO THEY.
- We have never been able to determine who “recommended” that this chemical should be stored in this way at this site. Albright and Wilson never had any planning permission to commence tipping operations. Not mentioned here are the many breaches of licence that the EA noted, and we also note HERE.
- Originally, Rhodia had called the site “a safe haven”, now it is labelled “a natural haven”- when there was nothing contained within the lagoon that was “natural” other than rain which fell out of the sky.
- “…….which have been living happily there for many years (eg canada geese”)
Like this one perhaps?
- In this third paragraph we then go into total fiction about what Rhodia has been doing to help us and the wildlife at the site. There was only ever one link with the site, and one reason why it was not made earlier, and that is their deception and lies about what was contained in the sediment. The previous post-mortems did not test for white phosphorus exposure and so of course they showed no link.
- How anyone can have the timerity to talk of “hazards to wildlife” when they know full well the hazard of the “hazardous waste” within the lagoon that they dumped there? This also attempts to give the impression that suggestions of “solutions” of “harm” came from us, wheras suggestions that would not harm comes from them. THERE IS ONLY ONE SOLUTION- REMOVE THE HAZARDOUS WASTE THAT IS KILLING THE BIRDS- THIS IS THE PROBLEM, NOT THE BIRDS.
- “PHOSPHORUS IS TOXIC BUT THERE IS NO DIRECT EVIDENCE THAT IT IS CAUSING ANY DAMAGE TO LOCAL WILDLIFE.”
Well there is direct evidence, and Rhodia paid for it, but even then tried to argue the toss that not enough was found. What we have here are scientists in denial that have become so far removed from reality through their own self importance that they cannot comprehend that their actions are questionable. This is the firm of that “great” benevolent man Arthur Albright, the Quaker, how could it possibly be poisoning local wildlfie?
- Question- Why do you need to employ bird scaring techniques, for many years on a “safe haven” site which is “a natural haven for wildlife” which contains “harmless” calcium phosphate and which has “no direct evidence” of a poisonous and “toxic” chemical causing the deaths of birds?
Letter to Tom Watson MP
This letter three years later concerns an email that I had sent to both Tom Dutton and CEO of Rhodia Uk Limited at the time Robert Tyler. They claim to have never received the email- I emailed it to myself at the time and received it. Even when they had received a copy of it from the MP, they still did not reply.
- We now get “the pathway established between the sediment and the wildlife”. So now instead of accepting no blame at all for the poisoning, they are now refering to “a pathway” as though this has some lifeform external to their own attached to it- but do they regard it as “a direct link”?- not so clear here are we?
- We get the spin once more from this letter that the company are doing everything possible and are delaying any progress because they are such a caring bunch concerning nesting birds.
- Lankelma study- “they did not analyse the levels of phosphorus in the lagoon.”
Quoting directly from the Lankelma study they state….”Lankelma recently successfully completed an overwater investigation at a lagoon, for client URS, to characterise and sample the lagoon mud sediments for ‘white phosphorus’ that had been produced locally and the resulting residues placed under water in the lagoon for safety reasons.”
WE BELIEVE LANKELMA, NOT RHODIA.
- I requested a copy of these studies, in the email refered to sent to both Tom Dutton and Bob Tyler. I have never been given any valid reason as to why I cannot have a copy, even offering to pay for the copying at their site myself. What they do not want me to do is to allow other professionals to view it. I have also asked to see copies of the unpublished URS studies which characterise the lagoon sediments from 2002 and 2004 (i.e during when tipping operations and bird deaths were still in the mix and no obvious cause of death had been established). They were obviously aware that P4 concentrations were high enough and accessible to wildfowl in the sediment from these studies- which is why they do not want this to be publicly released because it would prove it. The citing of “commercial confidentiality” at not releasing these reports are a fraud. I have no intention of ever setting foot again in their dirty polluting toxic factory!
- Mintworth Transport proposals
This refers to The Site allocations Delivery Plan document submitted to Sandwell Council. This plan intended building “quality residential development” across the entire former Rattlechain brickworks site in their ownership, and Rhodia’s Rattlechain lagoon in addition. Take a look at the map.
There appear to have been serious discussions over this matter, and this has been ongoing for many many years since the days of The Black Country Development Corporation. It was the only reason why the still only “independent” intrusive study (Cremer and Warner Report of 1991) was carried out. Had the material in the lagoon been removed at this time, (AND IT WASN’T BECAUSE OF COST), then we would not have the problems that we now see. To Mintworth, in all its various forms over the years, Albright and Wilson and Rhodia must feel like the bride who always jilts the groom at the wedding ceremony at the altar at the last minute- and there do appear to be “lawful impediments” to the union in any case, as Tom Dutton correctly points out.
What we get here in the letter to Tom Watson appears to dash Mintworth’s vision. “Rhodia does not forsee the lagoon being capable of development for a significant period of time.”
An email from Rhodia to Sandwell Council offers a little more ambiguity to this statement.
“Over the last 5 or 6 years we have held discussions with Mintworth Transport and their advisors. We have seen the Sladen Report including their proposals for infilling. We have shown the report to our own in house specialists and to our external consultant at the time and all were of the opinion that the technique has significant technical defects.”
WE WILL HOLD RHODIA TO THIS STATEMENT AND REMIND THEM AND THE PLANNING AUTHORITY OF THIS LETTER, SHOULD ANY PLANS BE SUBMITTED CONCERNING DEVELOPMENT AT OR ON TOP OF THE LAGOON. We still believe that it is their intention to offload this millstone at the earliest legal opportunity. Residents in the vicinity of this site should be in no doubt as to what would be unleashed should this area be used for future tipping operations- I.E “filling a hole with a large mound”. There may well be some residents on the Temple Way estate who recall what was going on throughout the 1990’s.
- Letter to EA
Part of a freedom of information request to The Environment Agency revealed correspondence from Rhodia to them concerning deposit of waste at the beach area to “inherently reduce risks to employees” and “cover the (toxic) sludge in this area” which can be read here. Tom Dutton refers to his letter in the letter to Tom Watson. We are not at all convinced by his explanation which appears to be backpeddaling of the worst magnitude. Why would employees be wading into an area of sludge- we do know that birds were ingesting waste from here and it is also in this area that barrels of phosphorus as well as AW bombs were blown up in the 1980’s. When a hole is dug, Tomfoolery is not a good way to dig yourself out of the situation.