- Rattlechain lagoon
- Rattlechain brickworks
- Birmingham Mainline Canal
- Tividale Sewage Works
- The new rattlechain brickworks pit that would become “The Duport’s tip”.
- Dudley Road allotments
- Brades Hall farm (Monks farm)
- The Gower Branch Canal.
Rose Lane in red.
In early 1975, Rose Lane in Tividale had seen 250,000 gallons of sulphuric acid and paint wastes deposited illegally on land scheduled for housing development by two companies . Four men had been charged with the offences, and one name in particular, Ronald McCrum had been fined for his part in the environmental crime.
But as this article from the 6th May 1975 Birmingham Post shows, there are some question marks raised by the circumstances, as the article refers to the police catching a perpetrator in the act of waste tipping at Rose Lane in the dead of night , but on a date AFTER those attributed to “McScum” and friends.
The “privately owned tip” is a mystery, as there is no tip as far as I can find that ever had planning permission on this land, but there were plenty of very dubious tip applications around this area by the brickworks conman Sheldon, and soilage by those other twats of Dudley Port- Vono and The Duport Group, who did much to destroy this entire area. The quote from Ken Harvey- the waste disposal officer for the WMCC appears uncertain as to the facts of the case.
Does this infer that McCrum and his company were caught out on this date, and the prior offences were ascertained by confession, or by other means, or was this another example of another firm caught fly tipping hazardous wastes illegally?
It also raises questions as to how Metro waste disposal and the other firms were snared by the WMCC. Covert surveillance by cctv would not have existed at this point in time, therefore the sources of intelligence would have had to be arrived at by other means available such as
- covert asset placed in a suspected rogue company
- information from whistle blowers
- phone tapping
- 24 hour surveillance of suspected firm and following of vehicles out of premises.
- 24 hour surveillance of suspected dumping site
- Pure serendipity of police being in the right place at the right time.
Given that the WMCC were not MI5 or even CI5, most of these would have been unlikely, so perhaps it was a rare example of the rossers being diligent for a change. 😮
The other questions and observations I would raise are
- How or if this incredible amount of waste was removed off site, and how was it “safely” dealt with?
- Whose jurisdiction was it to remove the waste and clean up the site?
- Or was it just left to remain there on site?
- To confirm the content of the material and to initiate a prosecution, this would presumably have required chemical testing of the actual material found to have been dumped at the particular time of the offences, and to compare this with other content on the site to confirm that nothing else had been dumped there illegally or otherwise prior to this by other persons.
- Surely the extent of the contamination and if it had spread to controlled waters or anywhere else would have been undertaken by the West Midlands County Council pollution Control or the local authority at Sandwell at the time? At least that is what any reasonable person may assume to be their very remit?
Following the public confirmation of the case at Rose Lane, a letter from Ken Harvey, the County Waste Disposal Officer, to The Director of Environmental health at Sandwell council, S. Hogg, reveals that this site was “Brades Hall Tip”, yet it is clear that this site was also a site for residential development for The Greaves Organisation.
The date of the letter, 3rd December is therefore written 7 months AFTER the publicised article in The Birmingham Post.
He states that “a great deal of toxic waste has been fly-tipped in this area.” He warns of heavy metal contamination, and the threat to future vegetation.
Harvey considers that the matter is important, (oh you don’t say) 🙄 , and does not know if any samples were taken by the developer of the site. He considers it not the place of the WMCC to approach the developer yet considers that all should be aware of the “pollution implications”- probably except the poor bastards buying houses on the contaminated land that is, no doubt. 😥
Many of the observations and questions that I posed above appear woefully absent from the content of his letter.
A letter from Greaves, the West Bromwich based developer on 14th January 1976, appears to confirm that they were in the process of selling this land to The Spiral Housing Society of Birmingham. The letter identifies 126 plots of land, and that there had been some “fly sludge” tested that had been tipped in MARCH 1975.
This would appear to indicate that the samples were linked to the paint wastes tipped by McScum on 3rd March 1975, BUT NOT THE SUBSEQUENT SULPHURIC ACID WASTES, OR THOSE REPORTED IN MAY OF THE SAME YEAR IN THE BIRMINGHAM POST ARTICLE.
So this means that these samples were not accurate for the character and amount of waste that was dumped!
Greaves, it is stated would accept all liabilities with the site being free of contamination after being filled and levelled, and they claim that the tests showed no contamination to the soil on the site. Well how bloody convenient when you are flogging off land that was known to have had “a great deal of toxic waste …fly-tipped in this area…”.
One might be a little sceptical of one company selling off contaminated land to another without much scrutiny, but if you do your homework on this company, you will know that Greaves was at this point in time a failing company, who went bankrupt in this very same year of 1976. At this time, a number of other local developers and builders had also gone bust, and the industry was in freefall. The following article from The post of November 28th 1979 confirms that they were over £6.5 Million in debt and had left behind a string of unfinished housing development sites when they were finally wound up.
The analysis of “fly sludge” test results, presumably of the paint wastes amount to very little, and do not even identify where they were taken from. In fact, in light of the Greaves Organisation’s financial predicament, I would call them out as confabulated, and untrustworthy bullshit. Was it employees of Greaves that actually took them from the site? but in any case, where were the samples taken by The West Midlands County Council in order to pursue a cogent prosecution?
One should note that the firm carrying out the tests, who could not verify from where they had been even been taken, were Bostock, Hill and Rigby. This particular consultancy also carried out a bloody awful assessment of the Albright and Wilson contaminated land at Strode Road fields in Clevedon. As it is, the levels of Chromium, I assume Chromium v1, are not low at all. The health risks associated with this chemical and to communities are well known.
There are no test results of any soil identified in a letter dated 3rd June 1975, so how the claim is made about no contamination is also to be seriously questioned.
The uncertainty surrounding a development site where toxic waste had been dumped and where individuals had been prosecuted on this known basis produced that other toxic outcome- the multi-agency meeting. And so it was on 15th January 1976, a number of people met from the WMCC waste disposal department, SMBC planning and environmental health and those dirty players in the game Severn Trent Water- at this point still a public concern.
There are some extraordinary observations made at this meeting, but first it should be stated as to what authority had even sanctioned the obvious bloody free for all that had been going on at the “Brades Hall Tip”.
- The meeting concerned the known dumping of toxic waste on the site.
- Harvey’s letter had not identified which area of the site was involved.
- The planners at SMBC were worried about houses being built there in light of this.
- It is clear that SMBC were not happy that they had not been informed of the situation much earlier, presumably this would have led to refusal of the application?
- Thelma Hillman, of the WMCC states that the prosecution meant that they could not disclose the information because of the prosecution. I would call this out as bullshit also, as the council presumably dealt with legal matters themselves and prosecutions, so did Harvey’s team consider themselves above their supposed local authority colleagues?
- It was not known “how much material would remain in the ground”– which appears to confirm the test results and claims as of Greaves as crap. Just because it “drains through”- how does this make it safe?
- Cope of SMBC claims that it would not be representative to take samples from across the site because of its size and present condition. By this I take it to mean that ground had subsequently been shifted around the site considerably , and was not as it had been when the wastes had been tipped- meaning that the contamination could have been buried or shifted around into an area that was unidentifiable? The idea that such a body would not demand that representative samples SHOULD and MUST be taken in such circumstances perhaps raises the question of if this department was fit for purpose?
- And then perhaps the most extraordinary statement of all from the prosecutor of the WMCC. Somehow, that if tests were taken after all the work had been carried out , then the samples would be representative if they were taken AFTER the houses had been built and taken in the back gardens. I will just leave this statement there…. 😯
How incredible that Hillman was even in such a position to call the odds like this. In my opinion this amounted to aiding and abetting the criminal fly-tippers, in that the controlling regulator who had brought the prosecution was quite happy to allow the site to be levelled and all of the toxic waste that had been identified dumped- some quarter of a million gallons” could magically disappear, and everyone could go home happy- except of course the blighted new house owners who would be blissfully unaware of what was in their backyard.
Cope of SMBC thought that there might be a blight on the site- (erm built on an unsanctioned tip), if people thought that toxic waste had been dumped on it. Oh you don’t say dickhead… 🙄
In this instance, I seriously do not know who is the more immoral, McScum and the toxic waste dumpers, or the officials at this meeting and their organisations, who appear to action the cover up of their crimes, all for the sake of a few fucking houses from a bent and failed housing developer.
Perhaps we needed Velma from Scooby Doo and the gang here, instead of Thelma and the WMCC!
- Cope continues that people may think that there is a danger associated with the site What and to whom was his first duty, the public or a pissing West Brom firm?
- And then what I consider to be the biggest bullshit moment of all- a tale from Hillman that she could identify, where on this expansive site remember, that apparently earlier the WMCC could not to take “representative samples”, that the original fly tipped waste had in fact been dumped down a “deep hole”- 20-30ft diameter . 250,000 gallons. cf an olympic standard swimming pool contains around 550,000 gallons of water.
- “and therefore it should not be necessary to consider the whole of the site as being at risk”– absolute bullshit!
- Drawing holes on maps from the say so of one person’s recollection of events from a site that had changed over time- sounds a very accurate way of going about proving something doesn’t it? 🙁
- The conclusion of the meeting is frankly scandalous. These are not the actions and rationale of a professional outfit, and if this is the case where such matters were decided, it raises serious questions as to the integrity of investigations into such matters at this time, and of the safety of such sites for development today.
The results obtained from this dubious starting point appear to have been equally dubious. Eight samples were supposedly taken, though there is again no reference or statement as to what quantity, or why only the six metals were tested for. The issue of the 250,000 gallons of sulphuric acid, do not appear to have even been examined! I’m pretty sure that it would not be a very good idea to sink foundations into such contaminated land!
Another letter from someone called Malcolm Payne and Associates, presumably for The Spiral Housing Society, queries the depths at which the samples were taken, from the pit remember, and not the whole site, that had seen a great deal of shifting around of material before the tests were taken.
The response from Sandwell Council’s Hogg, reveal that they were taken at depths of 12 and 25 feet. Remember that Hillman at the meeting had described the toxic waste dumped area as “a deep hole” . He claims that the results would be consistent with ordinary soil samples.
The concluding statement should perhaps have been shown to McCrum and the others’ solicitors, as to my mind it implies that the conviction was unsafe, based upon the conviction of Hillman that this was where they had dumped the toxic waste!
“As you are aware, the reason for taking the samples was in an endeavour to locate the site of a pit into which alleged toxic material had been tipped, and the results of the samples could, in fact, indicate that we have been unsuccessful.”
Of course, I believe that they had been “unsuccessful”, because this was not the place where McCrum’s toxic waste had been dumped, and one may also speculate, that if a financial loss was to occur a development company for this , that they might make pretty bloody sure that no toxic waste was found in any test results when the site had been narrowed down so helpfully for them by the WMCC officer. Again perhaps another form of divination was needed to determine the actual location of the pit; piss take Pegs “Markers of the Mahyong” , Agent Cooper from Twin Peaks Tibetan stone throwing technique, or even the staff of Ra come to mind….
It is clear that Payne and co took this as a green light to proceed with the development, with no problems at all. He assumes that the depths involved mean that safe development could take place, but again, I would note the absence of any testing for sulphuric acid.
Hogg gave a quick response, and a sleight at the West Midlands County Council. The fact that “low concentrations” of material had been found in the site identified by the WMCC themselves after raising the matter appear to leave them looking rather stupid- particularly Ken Harvey. The idea however that all of this should now just be forgotten, and only test in the gardens is scandalous on the part of this Sandwell Council officer.
- THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT A MASSIVE VOLUME OF WASTE HAD BEEN DUMPED
- FOUR MEN HAD BEEN PROSECUTED
- WHERE THE FUCK HAD THE WASTE GONE TO?
The letter Hogg refers to is shown below. Harvey also believes that it to be “not a particular problem in this location”. Yet neutralises this with the clanger that their information (and prosecution) was based upon “a large quantity of toxic chemicals… (having been)…deposited in the area. ”
Furthermore he also speculates that the waste may have moved through the sand – (foundry sand, probably with phenolic binders that give off carbon dioxide) and along the clay bed, though there is no positive evidence to support this. AND THIS IS THE MAN WHO GRANTED WASTE DISPOSAL LICENCES SUCH AS THE ONE AT RATTLECHAIN, WHAT A BRAIN HE WAS!
But Harvey before his death in 1980 went on to submit evidence to The House of Lords Select committee on hazardous waste on behalf of the WMCC. He cites under “Adequacy of scientific testing in the field”, (so that rules them out then) 😆 ,instances where development sites have produced great difficulties, in light of the contamination that had unexpectedly been found after development had begun, or perhaps more to the point, the developers had failed to identify the risks- like at the Spiral Homes Temple Way development site where toxic wastes had been dumped apparently, but not found.
He gives a remarkably interesting case in Sandwell where “fly tipping of hazardous waste had occurred that was development for housing purposes”. Oh that sounds familiar Ken tell us more…
“This authority aware of the the implications , raised the matter with the District Authority, and soil samples were taken as a result, indicating alarmingly high levels of toxic metals, including lead. ”
That’s extraordinary Ken, and how did you and they deal with this potent risk?
“It was possible to redesign the layout , in this case, such that the majority of contamination was under pavements, roadways and a traffic island. A number of dwellings had to be reallocated to a type with landscaped gardens (to prevent disturbance or vegetable cultivation) etc after removal of contaminated soil to a depth of two metres.”
Doesn’t it make you feel safe in your scruffy 1970’s built home that Ken Harvey, S Hogg and co of Sandwell Council were in charge of making sure that developments were not being built on contaminated land, that is “the majority” of it not being so. 😳
He also enthrals us and the Lords with a story about phosphorus wastes igniting from a canal arm , that had been used to infill another development site in Birmingham! Apparently “phosphorus is quite safe under water”– except if you are a bird ingesting this banned rat poison in a hazardous waste site sanctioned by a THICK TWAT 😥
So what we had here is a combination of the following at Land around Rose Lane.
- A totally incompetent County Waste disposal officer, and a department which failed to get in touch with the local planning authority and the housing developer, and who were fully aware that a housing development had commenced.
- A housing developer in Greaves who went bust, before the development had finished.
- A housing developer who offered up extremely dodgy samples of alleged “sludge” that had been fly tipped.
- A county waste disposal officer who might as well have been mystic meg in terms of locating alleged dumping of toxic waste.
- All complicit in covering up the waste and its location from future residents whose houses and gardens could be built on top of material hazardous to human health!
One wonders with all of this how the convictions obtained against McCrum and Co by the WMCC were even safe, if it had not been for the enormous quantities involved which appear to have just magically disappeared? Of course the contaminated area could have been dug up and just as easily been fly- tipped somewhere else to get rid of the problem before any sampling took place. 😕
Further developments under vague site licensing by the WMCC would see a demolition waste dumping darby on land both East and West of Rose Lane, particularly of Vandyke brown foundry sand. If there were any roses on Rose Lane, they would quickly have been diminished by the phytotoxic crap smeared and scraped across the canvas like the stuff that Bob Ross would have painted only in his worst post apocalyptic nightmare.
Here’s a good song mentioning “cowboys”, “Roses” and “scars”, by a rather aptly named band….