If anyone was hoping that the recent discussion on Cresswell’s toxic-waste tips would be the last word, it looks like they are to be disappointed.
On the one side of the argument, it’s believed that the old waste-tips in Cresswell on the Blythe Park Industrial Estate (mostly used by the Blythe Colours Works which was based there before it closed down) have pretty much been filled in and secured. Official tests seem to show little discernible or problematic effect on the environment around.
Although it’s clear some unpleasant materials are in there (cadmium etc), there is little evidence that they are on the move.
The people who have this point of view say that Cresswell is ‘low-risk’.
But – on the other side of the debate -, it’s believed that too little is known about the state these tips are in. There is extra concern that there could be other unreported tips close to (but not on) the old factory site; these include nearby pools that were filled in.
The VVSM residents’ group says it is also interested in going further with the so-called validation report (completed in 2010), which is a summary of the remediation on the three tips that were identified within the Blythe Park Industrial Estate. (See Note 1).
So… what did we find out at the meeting?
The man bearing the brunt of the questioning was Dr Daniel McCrory, Pollution Officer with Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, and he laid out the council’s point of view.
He said that there are 4000 possible disposal sites in the Staffordshire Moorlands, and each one might warrant an investigation. But, simply, the council did not have the money to undertake all these.
However, based on tests, in his opinion (and that of the Environment Agency) Cresswell was low-risk, and not at the front of the priority queue.
This did not satisfy the supporters of VVSM at the meeting. They pointed to the HomeCheck website which is reporting an increase in the landfill pollution level in Cresswell since 2003. (See Note 2).
VVSM also say that there is now new evidence to be considered: as individuals have since come forward to report on poor disposal practices in the past. VVSM have been collecting these testimonies and want them put on the record. (If you are aware of how the waste-tips were created, or any situations that arose from them being where they are, you might like to get in touch with VVSM. They say they will treat your information in confidence.)
They remained concerned about the lack of specificity as to what chemicals are in the tips.
Debate goes on…
Daniel McCrory said that one favourable aspect of the situation is that Cresswell, like the rest of Staffordshire, has a thick layer of clay underground, which acts as an impermeable barrier to any leak of waste further down into the ‘aquifer’ (from where our water is drawn).
However, he said he was prepared to take more local samples around Cresswell depending on evidence supplied by VVSM.
He also added that, if any further development took place on or near Blythe Park, further examinations of the ground there might be needed to tie with any planning permission.
The meeting ended with an agreement that Dr McCrory and VVSM supporters would have another meeting in the near future to discuss the new evidence and submissions that the group has gathered. He said he’d also be interested to see evidence of other tips (eg filled-in pools…) that are not on the Blythe Park.
However, Dr McCrory warned that getting things improved might still be difficult even so: “… even if some poor practices are identified, actually proving responsibility in a court of law for pollution on contaminated land, especially if ‘off-site’, is extremely difficult. Not many cases like this are successful.” (See Note 3).
The debate rumbles on…
Related articles: Toxic waste back on the Draycott PC agenda
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Remediation of the at Blythe Park Industrial Estate had to be carried out in 2005/6 by the new owners – in order for them to achieve planning approval. The validation report followed.
See Blythe Park Industrial Estate planning application.
It’s possible that the latest HomeCheck assessment is based on information that previously existed but which has only recently been released (such as the Historic Landfill Database – which always been on file but was not fully compiled and published until 2006/7).
HomeCheck is a database service that buys in all their data.
Daniel McCrory wrote to us about our puzzle over why there is nothing about Blythe Park (or anywhere else) on the Moorlands’ Contaminated Land Register: “I can fully understand that why – given the long history of potentially contaminative land uses that have occurred on the site -, the public would find it somewhat surprising that the Blythe Industrial Park does not appear on the council’s public register of contaminated land.
The reason for this omission is that, contrary to what one might believe, this register is not intended to be a register of sites which may be contaminated but rather, it is a registry of what is effectively the enforcement history of a site once a remediation notice has been served.
In fact, even to get to the stage of serving a remediation notice, the enforcing authority (Local Authority and/or Environment Agency) have to actually prove/declare that the site is legally contaminated (in line with a specific definition set out in the associated legislation and guidance).”
(See Moorlands’ Contaminated Land Register – the policy)
So… as we found out… at present, Staffordshire Moorlands Council do not have any sites that meet the criteria for inclusion onto the register, and the register is empty, which, admittedly, does seem odd!
(See also this related article: Froghall’s old Copper Works not on Contaminated Land Register )
However, the Environment Agency’s ‘Historic Landfill Map’ does list the past (i.e. now closed) tips at Blythe Park, plus two other sites in Cresswell and, of course, the two very big infills at Totmonslow.