“Prophecy is fortunately no function of an industrialist, and we must leave the event to our historian’s successor.”
Sydney Barratt, former Chairman of ALBRIGHT AND WILSON.
There are many stories and anecdotes surrounding the local history of this site, some of which have been retold to us over the years, and are consistently similar in description. In order to build a permanent record of what occurred on the site, so that its history as a waste disposal site will not be swept under the carpet, we want to know of your memories.
- Did you used to play around this unfenced marlhole as a child?
- Do you recall seeing waste being disposed of into the lagoon either by canal barge or road tanker?
- Did you used to work for Albright and Wilson or Rhodia and have inside knowledge of what was being disposed of here- or what were you told about the waste being disposed of here by works management?
- Do you have any old photographs of the site or canals around it?
- Do you remember pollution along the canals- especially around the Trinity Street area or Dudley Port?
- Did you ever see any dead birds in or around the area that appeared suddenly?
- Anything considered about Albright and Wilson’s other toxic waste sites in the Whitehaven, Widnes or Bristol areas.
I have discovered eye witnesses who have seen dead birds on or around the Rattlechain lagoon prior to 1999.
Local man Robert Adams recalls an Albright and Wilson employee or tanker driver using a net to retrieve dead bird carcasses from the pool in the early 1990’s. Mr Adams received a non committal response when he asked what had killed them.
James Price’s recollection goes back further and confirms the way in which waste was still being delivered by canal barge in 1969. Given the number of dead passerine species (perching birds, or songbirds) he recalls seeing, and the known low water levels and higher (and unquantified) levels of white phosphorus in the waste, it is hard to believe that wildlife was not being poisoned by white phosphorus spillages in the area. Men were transporting waste using a wheelbarrow bouncing up and down on planks. This material must have got everywhere!
This is his statement –
“After serving fifteen years in the army with the light infantry, my first job in 1969 was with the London steel works at Tividale. I worked a three shift system, 6-2, 2-10 and 10-6. I used to walk to work using the canal and by the tunnel, that’s the one nearest Dudley Port.
One day about 5.45am in the summer of 1969, I noticed two dead birds near the tunnel entrance. As I went further along the path level with the marl hole (clay pit), the whole path was littered with dead birds of all types. But as I was near the filter beds on the left of the path a bit further along just a couple of birds dead and nothing after that.
I saw dead birds many times after that but not as many as the first time I had seen them.
One day I ended my night shift at 5.45am, and as I walked along the canal towards Oldbury, I came level with the marl hole. There were two men using a pump and large hose, pumping what I recognised as a liquid substance of Phosphorus out of a large steel barge. During the summer I often saw them pumping the substance down into the marl hole, always early in the morning.
I had seen phosphorus on Salisbury Plain during army manoeuvres, when they used the mortar shells. So that is my conclusion why the birds died. They would have used the marl hole when the water was just rain water as all clay pits fill up when not in use. But when they used it after the phosphorus was put in, they would be poisoned and die very soon. Phosphorus burns like hell.“
“Amazing what money can do to cover up dumping. Its horrendous that people are living in such close proximity to this dump. We discovered it after moving into Macdonald Close . The effect on wildlife is awful and nothing is being done!!!!!! Unfortunately birds dont understand warning signs and more appropriate measures should be taken. Its frightening how we didnt even know it was there until walking near it one day. Glad this website has been created had been reading the requests for information on what do they know. Do you have any information on long term exposure? Perhaps flyers should be created to locals to make them aware of this web site, because someone I spoke to in our street was under the impression it was completely safe now and no risk to anyone.”
“Thanks Matt for your astute comments. It is ultimately the local residents who will be affected by these sites and by the toxic contents within them. The nearer you live, the closer you are to being the involuntary subject of an experiment in long term exposure to certain hazardous waste chemicals. The so called “pathways” of exposure that environmental consultants and other theorists like to drool over are only as complete as their academic minds allow them to imagine. The trouble is that these people have a very nasty habit of getting it wrong because they lack imagination. Wildlife suffers, and people will suffer. It is the story of every chemical disaster the world has seen, yet still they do not see it. I remember one Environment agency manager telling me that “phosphine is marsh gas”. Another stated “phosphorus isn’t toxic, I’m a chemist, I did A-level chemistry.”
The people who claim that such sites are “safe” are the ones who choose not to live by them. They are also the same people who do not want all the information to be widely known. If you have seen the film “Erin Brockovich” you will know what you are up against when it comes to trying to convince the so called “professionals”, who were deaf, dumb and blind to the facts of the case and the real truth of the situation.
We intend to put more pages and links up soon about the evil chemical that is white phosphorus, and other toxic materials that were deposited in the lagoon.
It is our intention to tell the real truth that the local newspaper won’t print.
To answer your question, the long term affects of exposure to white phosphorus are necrosis (death of bone and tissue cells) of the jaw (phossy jaw) and bones. Some animal studies have confirmed birth defects in newborns.
While some people choose to live in “paradise”, it does not mean that others should be forced to live in hell.
Please help to spread the word.”
“I must mention I live by this toxic pit it is horrible the smell that comes from it sometimes it’s so bad the smell will burn your nose and the air quality is horrible I’m asthmatic so I suffer when the levels are bad around it I have lived by it my whole life I remember when it was not blocked off at all I was always told not to go by it my parents said that if you go by it it might kill you so I have always known it was really bad.”
“I have only just found your site.
I was born in 1951 in Tipton.
We were one of the first families to move to Jays Avenue in the early sixties and as a youngster the railways and canals were my playground.
We used to walk along the Grand Union towards Birmingham from the top of Jays Avenue.
Not far along the canal was a derelict brick works and we used to play by it in the surrounding area.
Nearby, down a slope was what we used to refer as the Green Lagoon, which was quite famous. We found that by chucking bricks into the strange coloured water we could cause a small explosion and showers of bright fire sprays as the water mixed with the air.
One day I moved a little way from where we normally threw from, looking for stones to throw. I walked onto a bare patch of ground and instantly went down up-to my waist.
Something stopped me going further and I managed to get out.
I was wearing wellington boots and they were smouldering. I had walked onto some kind of underground fire.
After that and the thoughts of what might have happened, we stuck to roaming the canals and railways.”