Image: Pollution continues to pour into Whitehaven Harbour – campaigners wonder if this mine water pollution would be tolerated with no end in sight in harbours in the Home Counties.
Sent to Press today….
KEEP CUMBRIAN COAL IN THE HOLE
Whitehaven Harbour Mine Water “Huge” Pollution is Red Flag for new West Cumbrian Coal Mine.
Campaigners are urging a halt to new coal mining plans and redoubled efforts to find and control the source of the pollution which has been pouring into Whitehaven Harbour at least since December 2022.
Campaigners asked two independent experts for comment on the data. Marine Pollution expert Tim Deere-Jones said that: “I’d be very confident in raising coal mining as the source…It would certainly be relevant to demand that the mine owners, Env Agency, MMO, NWS, DEFRA et’ al’ get on the case and identify exactly where the contaminated water came from, boreholes? faults in the seabed geology? old mine workings on land? If they refuse or fudge, it would be legitimate to postulate “in the absence of empirical evidence to the contrary” that all three (especially faulting and boreholing) were possible causes, that the new coal mine plan should therefore be abandoned and that clearly any sub seabed GDF in the relevant coal field was clearly and very strongly contra-indicated.”
Dr Marco Kaltofena US based environmental scientist with 30 years experience in environmental, workplace and product safety investigations has said: “no wonder it turned orange, those iron levels are H U G E. Cadmium, ammonia, and other metals (including nickel) are all elevated as well. They should have tested for arsenic and mercury too, especially given the elevated cadmium; but they did not. I strongly suggest having mercury and arsenic tested in the water. A separate sample of suspended solids should also be collected and tested for all of these parameters (plus radium, thorium and uranium) in addition to the water sample already done.
The original material was likely highly acidic, but would be neutralized once it hits seawater.”
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole ask the following:
To reiterate our plea to the Coal Authority not to issue West Cumbria Mining with a licence to mine onshore at Whitehaven
To remove Mayor Mike Starkie as the lead investigator into the harbour pollution. Mayor Starkie has vested interests in directing investigations away from the existing impacts of West Cumbria Mining’s borehole investigations and future impacts of mass void removal (for coal and nuclear waste) in the Whitehaven area.
Dr Kaltofen strongly suggests having mercury and arsenic tested in the water as well as a separate sample of suspended solids collected and tested for all of these parameters plus radium, thorium and uranium.
Allonby Bay has just been chosen by The Rt Hon Dr Thérèse Coffey, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,as one of only three Highly Protected Marine Areas in the UK. These sites will be designated before 6th July 2023. The intention of the HPMA is to allow the marine environment to fully recover from any harmful activities. The HPMA at Allonby Bay has been established to complement the existing marine protected areas of which Whitehaven is one. The contaminated water pouring into Whitehaven harbour water will have been polluting Allonby Bay just several miles away since December. Whitehaven itself is a Marine Conservation Zone. Do these so called “Gold Star” protections mean nothing?
Tim Farron MP has listened to concerns and is “ pleased to confirm that I have written to the EA Manager for Cumbria concerning testing. I have written again to the Chief Executive of the Coal Authority to forward the opinions you have received and I have written to the Secretary of State for DEFRA to urge her to investigate the efficacy of the Highly Protected Marine Area .”
The following letters were sent to press on Monday – if anyone sees anything published please let us know- thanks!
To Local Press
All MPs in Cumbria have supported sanctions imposed on Russian companies and oligarchs, with the supplying of arms to Ukrainian forces taking precedent over any peace negotiations. There is however a strange anomaly in Cumbria with the appointment of a Russian government funded Director to West Cumbria Mining. In December 2022 just a week after UK Government approved the first deep coal mine in over 30 years in the UK Owen Hegarty officially joined West Cumbria Mining. He is founder and Executive Chairman of EMR Capital, the private equity company who put up the money backing WCM’s undersea coal mine near Sellafield. He has fingers in lots of pies. Back in December 2020 Owen Hegarty said “There’s never been a better time to mine coal on Russia’s Pacific coast due to China’s blacklisting of Australian coal So the new Director is an opportunist then – nothing wrong with that you might say. However this opportunist has no qualms about accepting money from governments. In the case of Owen Hegarty’s Tigers Realm Coal, the Russian government, to the tune of at least £30 Million.
The CEO of West Cumbria Mining Mark Kirkbride who appointed Owen Hegarty (WCM funder) is also advising the UK Government on the “biggest environmental project in the UK” aka an undersea nuclear dump for high level nuclear wastes (prime area in the frame is next to the coal mine). So much for national security – but hey we need the steel from Cumbrian coking coal to build Trident nuclear submarines to protect us from Russia who are also bankrolling the new Director of West Cumbria Mining. Why has this not raised lots of questions from those MPs who are “horrified” by Russia?
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole – a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign
Letter to The Guardian
Following Government approval of the Cumbria coal mine the Guardian reports “coalmine is owned by private equity firm with Cayman Islands base” ( Sandra Laville, Environment Correspondent Thu 8 Dec 2022). The story does not end there. A week later on Dec 16th the owner of the private equity firm, Owen Hegarty was appointed as Director of West Cumbria Mining. Owen Hegarty is also the founder of Tigers Realm Coal who are responsible for bringing coal mining to a previously coal mine free area – in Siberia!.
Owen Hegarty the new Director of the Cumbria coal mine has not only generated massive environmental destruction in Chukotka and the Bering Sea area but has also been bankrolled by the Russian government to the tune of tens of £Millions playing fast and loose with the human rights of regional indigenous communities into the bargain. This is a massive scandal.
On the one hand Government is providing armaments to Ukraine against Russia and on the other it is approving an earthquake inducing coal mine near the worlds biggest stockpile of plutonium at Sellafield whose Director is bankrolled by the Russian Government. The same Cumbrian MPs who cheerlead for the Russian bankrolled Director’s coal mine are also cheerleading War against Russia rather than peace negotiations. It makes no sense.
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole – a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign address supplied
Just a week after UK Government approved the first deep coal mine in over 30 years in the UK, a new director was appointed. Owen Hegarty was appointed by West Cumbria Mining on 16th December 2022. He is founder and Executive Chairman of EMR Capital, the private equity company who put up the money backing West Cumbria Mining’s undersea coal mine near Sellafield in Cumbria. He has fingers in lots of pies. Back in December 2020 Owen Hegarty said “There’s never been a better time to mine coal on Russia’s Pacific coast due to China’s blacklisting of Australian coal So the new Director is an opportunist then – nothing wrong with that you might say. However this opportunist has no qualms about accepting money from governments. In the case of Owen Hegarty’s Tigers Realm Coal, the Russian government to the tune of at least £30 Million. The CEO of West Cumbria Mining Mark Kirkbride who presumably appointed Owen Hegarty (WCM funder) is also advising the UK Government on the “biggest environmental project in the UK” aka an undersea nuclear dump for high level nuclear wastes (prime area in the frame is next to the coal mine). So much for national security – but hey we need the steel from Cumbrian coking coal to build Trident nuclear submarines to protect us from Russia who are also bankrolling the new Director of West Cumbria Mining. Why has this not raised questions ?
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole – a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign
The new Director of West Cumbria Mining Owen Hegarty is also the founder of Tigers Realm Coal. The TIgers Realm Coal company propaganda shows images of handouts to indigenous people from the coal mine developers who themselves have taken tens of £Millions from the Russian government. In contrast to the company propaganda showing indigenous folk recieving handouts the truth is that indigenous peoples of Far East Russia fought Owen Hegarty’s coal mines because they knew that the land on which they depend to survive would be trashed.
Colleagues and compatriots! For more than a week now, members of the Altar community and their families have been confronting the contractor of the Chinese Shenhua coal mining company in Chukotka – CJSC Chukotskaya Torgovaya Kompaniya (ChTK).
To transport heavy machinery and equipment for work in the coal fields of the former Beringovsky district, ChTK uses spawning rivers, containers are dragged along them, and caterpillar transport goes. And all this happens during the spawning period of salmon and the period of reproduction and feeding by birds and animals of chicks and animals.
So far, this has only been stopped by blocking the path of technology, it was done by members of the Altar community, who were not afraid to resist the big money and resources of companies such as ChTK, the administrative and power resources of the government of the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug.
The history of this confrontation has been going on for several years. It all started with the North Pacific Coal Company ( a subsidiary of Tigers Realm Coal) which since 2007 has been engaged in the so-called “exploration” of coal deposits, while not giving a damn about work in the area where the northernmost spawning grounds of sockeye salmon are located, according to biologists, it was necessary to create nature protection zones for protection a long time ago. nesting and habitats of rare birds.
This area is also the southern tip of the long-suffering Beringia International Park, which has not yet been created, largely due to the unwillingness of the district authorities.
For more than two years, the head of the Altar family and tribal community has been trying to draw the attention of local, district, federal authorities to the barbaric ways and methods that companies work in these fields, acts were drawn up, photographs and videos were taken, but as we see, the authorities of Chukotka it is necessary to quickly sell the wealth of the country, without looking back at the people who live in the district.
We tried to appeal to both the President and V.V. Putin, we also appealed to the branch of United Russia, but this had no effect.
Now the situation is already in the red, critical zone.
Members of the community blocked the passage of vehicles along the rivers in Ushakov Bay. They are being threatened by ChTK employees, they are threatening to send a helicopter with the FSB, the police and to open criminal cases against them. At the same time, they refer to the Water Code, that it is supposedly possible to carry out work in the 20-meter zone of the river, mind you, the spawning river of a valuable breed of fish !!!
And do not believe that the essence of the conflict boils down to the fact that once again they came to “get rich” and “give us a job”, and here we are climbing with our fat people, almost dragging “progressive humanity” into the Stone Age. The situation is just the opposite – the Altar community, the indigenous people are for the construction of roads, so that there is work and children can learn new specialties, so that we finally move from an abandoned state to a normal human life, but at the same time preserve our nature because we want to live on our land and raise our children!!!
Colleagues, countrymen!!! We appeal to you with a proposal to support our fellow tribesmen !!!
Russian Government has a large slice of West Cumbria Mining New Director’s Coal Pie.
Our government are ignoring calls for diplomatic negotiations with Russia to take precedent over increasingly dangerous (and lucrative) war games while endorsing developments with ties to the Russian government. Makes no sense at all unless viewed through the business as usual at any cost lens.
Just a week after government approved the first deep coal mine in over 30 years in the UK, a new director was appointed to West Cumbria Mining.
Owen Hegarty appointed to West Cumbria Mining on 16th December 2022 is no ordinary Director. He is founder and Executive Chairman of EMR Capital, a private equity company who put up the £Millions to get West Cumbria Mining started.
In December 2020 the headline in Financial Review boldly asserted “There’s never been a better time to mine coal in Siberia” “Mining industry veteran Owen Hegarty says his Siberian coking coal venture is poised to capitalise on China’s blacklisting of Australian coal, as it embarked on an exquisitely timed $43.5 million fundraising on Wednesday. ASX-listed Tigers Realm Coal has been mining on Russia’s Pacific coast for three years”
So the new Director is an opportunist then – nothing wrong with that you might say.
However this opportunist has no qualms about accepting money from governments. In the case of Owen Hegarty’s Tigers Realm Coal, the Russian government: “The certificates of residency in the ADZ provide Tigers Realm with valuable benefits that include looser regulation, tax breaks and the ability to receive financing from Russia’s sovereign fund.” The Beringovsky Advanced Development Zone (ADZ) was created by Russian legislation to provide an attractive investment and administrative framework for investors and companies in the Russian Far East.
Without the Russian government’s largesse Owen Hegarty’s Tigers Realm Coal venture would have collapsed as according to Greenpeace’s Unearthed blog “A plan by a small Australian-listed coal company to build two massive mines in the Russian Arctic is teetering on collapse as local indigenous landowners voice their concerns, the coal price continues to crater and banks remain wary of funding the project.” The article goes on to reveal that “Before Tigers Realm Coal arrived on the scene, indigenous landowners – heavily reliant on fishing salmon – had endured a long struggle before finally winning legal title to an area of land around the Amaam lagoon, right near the site of the proposed project. The community, which actively opposed coal exploration in the region, was stunned when Tigers Realm kicked off its drilling programme in late 2010. The movement of heavy equipment over the fragile tundra impacted the protection zone of Amaam Lagoon during the crucial sockeye salmon breeding season.”
Amur Tiger (Siberian Tiger -wikipedia) food includes salmon which breed in the Amaam Lagoon.
In April 2014 Tigers Realm Coal received 36 million Australian dollars from the Russian private equity firm Baring Vostok Mining and 16 million Australian dollars from the Russian Government’s Russian Direct Investment Fund (£30M in total). According to Unearthed, Tigers Realm Coal (Tigers Realm Minerals Group TIG) have even bigger ambitions for mining in the Russian Far East.
Owen Hegarty’s appointment as Director at West Cumbria Mining hot on the heels of Government approval for the first deep coal mine in 30 years in the UK has raised not one eyebrow amongst NGOs or the press. This is despite the financial backing of WCM by Hegarty’s EMR Capital (largely from unknown sources) and the large slice of Russian ownership of Hegarty’s Tigers Realm Coal. The May 2022 AGM report for Tigers Realm Minerals Group (TIG) lists Owen Hegarty as “Independent Non-Executive Director” and “Founder of TIG”.
West Cumbria Mining have not yet found time to add Owen Hegarty to their “Meet the Team” despite the illustrious new team member receiving the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in the June 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for service to the mining and minerals sector.
It does make you wonder about the Orwellian hate directed at Russia by our government on the one hand and approving a deep coal mine near Sellafield with Russian Government backed Director Owen Hegarty on the other.
Also makes you wonder about the push for a deep nuclear dump for high level nuclear wastes, as the government advisor for the nuclear dump is CEO of WCM Mark Kirkbride. Kirkbride’s coal mine has been bankrolled by EMR Capital whose Russian government funded owner (to the tune of at least £30 Million) is now an appointed Director of West Cumbria Mining.
So much for national security – but hey we need the steel from Cumbrian coking coal to build Trident nuclear submarines to protect us all from evil Russia.
Following news that a radioactive Caesium-138 capsule was lost whilst in transit in the deserts of Western Australia, the UK/Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities have written to mining conglomerate Rio Tinto, urging company officials to publish their findings on where fault for the loss lies and to fully recompense state authorities for the cost of the capsule’s recovery.
The Office of Nuclear Regulation is responsible for oversight of operators transporting nuclear materials in the UK; the Chief Nuclear Inspector’s report from October 2022 recorded 69 incidents related to nuclear transport in the reporting period, two…
We have received a letter via Tim Farron MP which reveals the startling fact that the investigations into the reasons behind the pollution in Whitehaven Harbour “is being led personally by Mike Starkie, the Mayor of Copeland.” The Mayor of Copeland has been the most aggressive supporter of West Cumbria Mining from the off, telling people including Tim Farron MP to butt out : “In West Cumbria we are fed up with people from outside the area telling us what is best for us. The mine project is potentially transformational and will significantly improve lives and prospects of the community in West Cumbria.” Mayor Mike Starkie.
It is more than likely that the Mayor in his role “personally leading investigations” would divert investigations away from WCM’s exploration boreholes as a catalyst for the release of historic mine water previously held in place.
We have sent a further letter to the Coal Authority today via Tim Farron MP:
Thank you for the reply from the Coal Authority to our letter.
The reply is as you say disappointing.
There are three issues and a request we would be very grateful for answers to:
The Coal Authority have not addressed our urgent request that West Cumbria Mining are not granted a new conditional licence for the Onshore Area (Coal Authority ref: CA11/UND/0177/N). West Cumbria Mining require this grant of licence from the Coal Authority in order to carry out exploration/exploitation of the onshore area by September 2023 under 2 miles from Whitehaven Harbour. During West Cumbria Mining’s exploration of the Irish Sea off St Bees their contractors Priority Drilling from Ireland, caused a methane gas leak necessitating the call out of emergency services. It is therefore not unlikely that WCM’s explorations onshore, even nearer to Whitehaven, have also had unwitting impacts. We would like to see evidence from the Coal Authority why they think this is not the case.
The coal mine if given a new licence to drill will cause further damage to the integrity of already compromised historic mines. This was acknowledged by the Planning Inspector in his admission that “earthquakes cannot be ruled out.” At the planning inquiry West Cumbria Mining blocked calls for a Traffic Light System to be put in place similar to that required for the fracking industry despite the proximity to Sellafield, existing mines and the liklihood of ground movements due to earthquake, subsidence and routine drilling. Who will be (or is) ultimately responsible for damage resulting from West Cumbria Mining’s activities?
The Coal Authority ‘reassure’ us that the Mayor of Copeland, Mike Starkie is “personally leading investigations” by the CA, Environment Agency, Harbour Commissioners and others into the cause of the mine water pollution in the harbour. This is hugely concerning. The Mayor has a conflict of interest due to his aggressive promotion of West Cumbria Mining over several years. There is legitimate concern that the Mayor will as “lead investigator” do everything within his powers to direct investigations away from the role of WCM’s onshore (and/or offshore) exploratory boreholes, in being a catalyst releasing previously held in place mine water from the honeycomb of mines, coal, iron ore, hematite etc along the Whitehaven coast which is now a Marine Conservation Zone.
We ask, if necessary under Environment Information Regulations, for full disclosure of the laboratory tests and their results, carried out on the polluted water in Whitehaven Harbour since December 7th 2022
Many Thanks for all your help on this
Radiation Free Lakeland (Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign) refs
Traffic Light System similar to fracking – rebutted by WCM
Earthquakes “cannot be ruled out” said Planning Inspector
MP Tim Farron told to ‘butt out’ of West Cumbria by Copeland mayor Mike Starkie
10th April 2019. Tim Farron MP told to “butt out of West Cumbria” by Copeland Mayor “
“In West Cumbria we are fed up with people from outside the area telling us what is best for us. The mine project is potentially transformational and will significantly improve lives and prospects of the community in West Cumbria.”
Mine Water Pollution in Whitehaven Harbour is Red Flag for New Coal Mine.
Campaigners have sent a letter (10.2.23) to the Coal Authority via Cumbrian MP Tim Farron urging the Coal Authority not to renew West Cumbria Mining’s conditional licence for onshore mining which expired in October 2022.
Radiation Free Lakeland have opposed the coal mine since 2017 on a wide range of pollution issues including “geological and hydrological damage to an already vulnerable area in close proximity to the UKs nuclear waste stockpile at Sellafield”.
Approval of Coal Mine – Whitehaven Harbour Turns Red
Secretary of State, Michael Gove approved West Cumbria Mining’s coal mine plan on 7th December, around the same time red mine water poured into Queens Dock, Whitehaven Harbour. The authorities have not yet found the cause and mine water continues to flow into the harbour and on into the Irish Sea and Solway Firth.
The letter from Radiation Free Lakeland’s Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign states:
“We understand that the Coal Authority are currently working with the Environment Agency and United Utilities to try to understand where the contaminated mine water pouring into the culvert in Queens Dock, Whitehaven is coming from.”
Honeycomb of Old Mines -West Cumbria Coast
Campaigners point out that: “The contaminated water could be coming from any one or more than one of the vulnerable honeycomb of old mines in the Whitehaven area. Even if WCM’s exploratory testing is found not to be to blame for disturbance of the hydrology and geology it is surely prudent not to allow further mining in the area above Whitehaven which is very likely to impact the fragile geology of an already heavily mined coastal area.”
The Planning Inspector Stephen Normington, a former coal miner himself admitted that induced earthquakes resulting from West Cumbria Mining’s activity “cannot be ruled out.”
Campaigners warn that “The contaminated water pouring into the harbour is said by the Environment Agency to contain “metals” and our own citizen science test of the surface water’s ph at the far side of Queens Dock nearest the sea and furthest from the culvert, while the gates were open to the sea indicated that it is nowhere near the ph 8.1 that the surface harbour seawater should be. The test indicated a ph of 6 or below. This is veering towards acidic. The pressures on the Marine Conservation Zones of the Irish Sea and Solway Firth are becoming intolerable, including damaging investigation techniques for a high level sub-sea nuclear dump for which the coal mine boss is, incredibly, a key advisor with the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management.”
Do Not Issue New Licence
Campaigners urge the Coal Authority not to issue a new conditional licence for West Cumbria Mining’s controversial and potentially already polluting Onshore Whitehaven South Prospect.
[F14APower of the Authority with respect to coal mine water discharge
(1)The Authority may take such action as it considers appropriate (if any) for the purpose of preventing, or mitigating the effect of, the discharge of water from a coal mine into or on to any land or into any controlled waters.
(2)In this section and sections 4B [F2 , 4C and 4CA] below—
(a)“controlled waters” has the meaning given by section 104 of the Water Resources Act 1991; and
(b)references to coal mines are to coal mines vested in the Authority.]
The following blog post is by What Lies Beneath Rattlechain Lagoon from 2017 and is reposted here with their kind permission. The article is a deep dive into the Marchon site and the Anhydrite Mine that West Cumbria Mining wanted to dewater in order to use as the route into the proposed coal mine under the Irish Sea. The Environment Agency objected to that plan of dewatering the Anhydrite mine into the Irish Sea as the mine water is extremely toxic. So WCM said they would go above the Anhydrite Mine drift tunnels instead of through to get around their dewatering problem. However WCM HAVE carried out extensive borehole explorations to test the hydrology and geology and who knows what impacts that has had on the honeycomb of mines below Whitehaven – including the acid producing Anhydrite mine. Although it is kept under wraps one of the biggest users of acids is the nuclear industry. The tanker of nitric acid that overturned last year on country roads was heading to Sellafield but not one mainstream media outlet shared that fact with the public.
Albright and Wilson’s stench extended beyond Oldbury in the West Midlands to up North in the coastal area of Whitehaven. The chemical firm Marchon Products Limited had been based in the town for many years producing raw materials for detergents, and then expanding onto a disused tar plant before “the Quakers” took over there in 1955 and made it a subsidiary producing the detergent raw material STTP- Sodium Tripolyphosphate. Solway Chemicals Limited, another subsidiary were also producing sulphuric acid from this year from a plant next to the Marchon site. Their main concerns were liquid fertilisers and sodium laurel sulphate- a toothpaste foaming agent.
STTP needed phosphoric acid as an essential agent, produced by “the wet process”. This method is outlined from a 1955 Albright and Wilson publication “The manufacture and uses of phosphorus.”
A £5 million sulphuric acid plant extension completed in 1967 made Albright and Wilson the producer of one tenth of the UK’s total sulphuric acid output. 1968 saw the start up of a new wet phosphoric acid plant at Marchon, replacing the two previous ones. Levels of chemcials produced at the site are reported to have been 350,000 tons per annum of Sulphuric acid, 350,000 tons of cement, 165,000 tons phosphoric acid and 170,000 of STTP.
Whitehaven harbour was utilised to deliver raw materials using specially built vessels, which finally ceased in 1992.
But around the late 1960’s with AW’s disastrous loss making Long Harbour venture, the rot appeared to begin to set in for Marchon works as a site. In particular the environmental issues associated with other Albright and Wilson sites began to show a familiar pattern.
Pollution from this large site appeared like a sore pimple from an outpouring of froth associated with the phosphate manufacture into the Irish Sea. More dangerous were heavy metal laden effluent from the phosphate rock impurities. For many years it had been a source of constant complaint from residents yet Albright and Wilson batted these away as it always did with talk of “jobs being put at risk” and claims it met allowed consents- all the same bullshit they also used when complaints were made about their Oldbury activities.
In 1990 they successfully took Albright and Wilson to court, winning a private prosecution brought under the new Water Act 1989. Whitehaven magistrates fined them a poultry £2000 and greenpeace costs awarded of £20,000.
But Albright and Wilson were always a company in total denial about their disgusting environmental record and the following whinging, whining trite garbage is what they published in Albright World at the time, desperately attempting to convince their workforce that Greenpeace were in the wrong and that these environmental assassins were trying to close the plant down when they attempted to block the discharge pipe into the
The comments made by works director in this article are utterly delusional, “We believe the sample taken was not representative of our normal discharge” he wailed, with “profound knowledge” ,appearing to blindly believe that any transgression of the law should not apply to them. We also get those invented no/low risk “calculations” of theirs, which we have also recently seen offered by Rhodia in their defence of a white phosphorus/phosphine factory fire which were not accepted by the Health and Safety Executive.
We have a similar airbrushed version of events offered by Hugh Podger in his “Albright and Wilson The Last 50 years” and “Marchon The Whitehaven Chemical works by Alan Routledge.” The latter book is fine if you enjoy black and white photos of machinery and people standing in front of them viewed through rose tinted glasses, but the garish reality of long standing environmental pollution is not part of the colour scheme.
When Greenpeace later blocked the pipe discharging the grime into the sea, they were totally justified in doing so, and if I had been around then knowing what I do now about this firms activities, then I would have joined them to happily be arrested for taking a stand.
When challenged on their environmental record, Albright and Wilson and then Rhodia, basically the very same people, consistently were in denial about their activities being harmful and their blind arrogance as “scientists” believed they knew better than anyone else.
“Marchon is licensed by the North West Water Authority to pour 93 tonnes of uranium into the Irish Sea every year, as well as 27 tonnes of cadmium and 9.3 tonnes of arsenic. Tests carried out by Greenpeace show that the composition of radioactivity found in Whitehaven harbour precludes it being from Sellafield. For five years now, scientists have claimed that cadmium has been a cause of genetic damage. Large doses can destroy cell manufacture and repair.”
“In April over 100 parents and schoolchildren suffered nausea and coughing when a cloud of sulphur dioxide acid leaked from the factory and descended on them as they were leaving nearby Kells infant school. In July, 200 cars in the factory carpark were pitted and stripped of paint after a second acid leak.”
All of this appears to be of a very similar story to the anecdotes of residents living around the Langley area, and also the denials of an operator who appeared to care little about the health concerns associated with the toxic chemicals which it produced. That it “provides jobs for the area” that would otherwise not be there appears to be the standard political shillers comment for justifying appalling and blind eye turning health and safety faux pas.
Of the manner in which it treated its workforce:
“Only relatively recently, local people have become determined to know more about the effects the plant is having on their health. But employees are frightened to speak out for fear of losing their jobs in an area of high unemployment.
One former employee said he found that childhood asthma returned when he began working in the factory’s acid plant. He says the company never admitted that his work was the cause of his disease, but equally it did not insist he return to his job. The man, who still wishes to remain anonymous despite having left, interpreted this as a sign that the company knew it would be difficult to deny his work was the cause. But there are constant denials by the company when the plant is blamed for ill health.”
What one can also take from this is the not uncommon observation concerning how Albright and Wilson treated its community with contempt from a resident who states in the article
“The medical profession has not been remarkably active in trying to identify the source of high asthma, foetal mortality, and genetic abnormality rates which have been found in and around the town. During the past five years rare syndromes have been found in babies born in Whitehaven and nearby Mirehouse. These diseases have led to either mental disorders, cleft palates, cysts, or facial abnormalities. There are also abnormal levels of severe spasticity, premature births, the transposition of body vessels, poor speech, and acute myloid leukaemia…..
….Sheila Smith, who runs the family advice centre in nearby Monkwray, said: ‘It’s the accountability which in some ways concerns me more than the pollution. The thing we have found quite amazing is that Albright and Wilson is a totally closed organisation.
‘Trying to get the company involved in the community is impossible. You just meet with closed doors. As a result, there’s an awful feeling of apathy and despair. The health authority also turns a blind eye, even though this part of the town has the highest death rate from heart disease among women in the northern region, and is among the worst for general health.’
One can perhaps see why after the Greenpeace incident and concerns like this, Albright and Wilson attempted a charm PR offensive with “open days“, which of course, were more like an advertisement for what they made than a factory tour of any real benefit to the put upon polluted.
As at their Oldbury headquarters in the West Midlands, it is apparent that Albright and Wilson at Whitehaven were well represented in political circles. The May/June 1986 edition of Albright World reported that the new mayor of Copeland- the borough in which the works sat, was an employee, and not only that but boasted that he was the fourth employee mayor of that pocket borough to hold the title!
There may well have been others that followed him, but how can anyone really believe that having top councillors onside- especially in matters relating to planning and environmental concerns was not likely to be a very beneficial arrangement for all concerned- with protecting the company polluter?
And then there is the former MP – John Cunningham- now “Baron Cunningham of Felling”. Between 1970-1983 he was MP for the Whitehaven constituency, which then became the Copeland constituency where he would serve another 22 years as the elected representative. He deserves a special mention in how a political friend “who never worked for the company” was actually working for it for many years.
The following article appeared in Albright World, where the then fledgling Labourite was joined on a factory tour of the works by the useless former Prime Minister Jim Callaghan who held talks with union officials and managers- Orwell’s “man to pig and pig to man” comes to mind here .
“He told them that Dr Cunningham, who was his Parliamentary Private Secretary during Mr Callaghan’s government, was “constantly preaching about A+W’s virtues and is a very good advertisement for you”
With this type of ear to the top man, one wonders what the good doctor was actually diagnosing him with about the wretched company, but it is plain to see in the subsequent years that he persisted in this “advertisement” shillery for AW.
“Bottom’s up” champagne socialist
In 1980, he would go on to become a paid “industrial policy adviser” for Albright and Wilson, a title he held throughout his time as shadow environment secretary until he became Minister for Agriculture, fisheries and food under the odious Blair administration. So back to pouring “advertisements” into the ear of the premier. Of course this would be short lived, as Albright and Wilson by now were in terminal decline, so his advice cannot have been of much use in the 80’s
With takeover assured, Rhodia did not waste much time in flogging off the Whitehaven site to “Huntsman”- another metamorphosising pillock of a chemical manufacturer. In June 2005, time was called on the entire site, as it shut down for good, with Rhodia diverting its operations abroad.
There are some interesting footnotes to the fallen polluting behemoth of Whitehaven available on the internet.
An excellent urban exploration of the way in which Albright and Wilson/Rhodia and its associates left the site before demolition, almost as though it was Chenobyl can be found HERE. Another on the excellent 28 days later website gives a ghostly tour of the abandoned factory.
from 28 days later- a discarded map of the AW Whitehaven site
It is clear that this post apocalyptic scenario is one very familiar with Albright and Wilson and the manner in which it operated as a company- especially at its demise into the French hands of Rhodia.
Uncharacterised chemicals of all types and colours appear to be scattered everywhere mixing freely with mould alongside office equipment and personal identification tags serving as wafers in the toxic cream. How little the company must have valued the personal data protection of its staff to leave the site such as this!
Clearly the Environment agency will be monitoring this area for many years to come this, one of the many Albright’s bastards.
From the perspective of an ex worker at the site there is a rather whimsical ditty concerning the demise of the works at Whitehaven which can be found below, but it is somewhat unusual for the usually brainwashed ex workers of an Albright and Wilson company to be somewhat critical of both the employer and the union facilitating the destruction of the operation. It is quite clear that longstanding Marchon workers resent Albright and Wilson and Rhodia’s control of operations, as it began to unravel. Ultimately, with the type of chemicals that it made and which will no doubt persist for several decades, what one “couldn’t believe what they’d done” is how they managed to get away with it for so long.
And so to the inevitable talk of “regeneration” from toxic crap. We have this document entitled “West Whitehaven Draft Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) February 2012″, which can be read at the link below.
So when politicians are no longer able to spin their PR about jobs being vital from polluting industry, thus they like to play lego land and still pretend that the toxic legacy does not appear by wanting to build “quality homes” on or near to contaminated land. We do however get the truth of the past in this document about this dirty polluting shambles of a chemical site too late from this self serving council, now that its chemical factory paymasters are no longer there in situ.
“The public perception of the area locally is often poor due to the recent history of the industrial / chemical activities of the Marchon plant. The environmental impacts of the production processes resulted in unpleasant odours, gas clouds, and residue deposits on cars and gardens, as well as ground water contamination leading to foam licks and radioactive deposits in the sea. Visual impacts, noise and lighting pollution affected local residential amenity as did the heavy road traffic generated by the many tanker trips taking raw materials to the site from the harbour.”
Now when did Jack Cunningham and co ever admit to any of this at the time?
There is a parliamentary by-election in the Copeland constituency looming with the departure of Cunningham’s successor as MP there Jamie Reed who is taking up the position of “head of development and community relations” at the Sellafield Nuclear plant in the area. One could strongly argue that this former PR man for the company never left the job during his time as an MP. Perhaps voters should look very closely at the cv’s of the candidates for any grimy links with longstanding pollution.
GDF Villains including the Abominable Coalman – Counter the propaganda of the Partnership’s “GDF’s Heroes” – Make your own 8 page colouring book from one sheet of paper – print out and share!! #GDFOFF #LakesAgainstNuclearDump
Counter the Propaganda of “GDF’s Heroes” Make Your Own 8 Page Colouring Book from One Sheet of Paper. Download the A4 sheet below and follow the instructions to make your very own GDF Villains colouring book – make lots to hand out and spread the word.
Download this A4 page of “GDF Villains” to print in black and white and then follow the instructions …