I take the first part of this title from an SMBC employee describing events, who was present at the meeting at Smethwick Hall park regarding the appalling bird deaths following the confirmed Severn Trent Water’s contamination of the site with raw sewage .
The second part I take from direct observation and answers obtained through questions of SMBC themselves.
What is blatantly clear to even the most stringent SMBC supporter is that this site has been badly neglected for many years. Even Cabinet member Maria Crompton, who suddenly appears to have found a new appreciation for our beloved geese, has acknowledged as much and has proclaimed that she will get it sorted out.
But let’s not pretend that this situation has suddenly crept up on SMBC. It is one that must have been known about for years, by parks officers and directors, and for whatever reason ( and don’t give me any bullshit about “the cuts”), has been put off for another day.
There is more silt in this pool by volume than water. Having set waist in it myself, I know this to be the case. There was a ridiculous spectacle of swan pedallos at this site a few years ago where the real birds themselves were roped off inside the area that they now need to be kept out of.
This “fun day” event was used as a publicity vehicle for a then prospective Labour Councillor, who bizarrely would become a cabinet member for parks for a time before being ousted after making derogatory remarks about fellow councillors, including the one who is now in his stead. Then we had the useless Gavan, who paraded in front of the cameras at Victoria Park Smethwick last year following bird deaths there , blaming the hot weather, unaware that the water collapse itself was due to a collapsed Severn Trent Water asset that someone from SMBC had botch job repaired. This sets the scene of the farcical political “storm” that is Sandwell council- and the sewer swamp which unfortunately never appears any closer to draining.
The twitter picture below, a favourite tool of SMBC’s spin machine and their ex Express and Star journalists comms team, (where invariably they go to die along with reporting any vestige of the truth), shows the previous incumbent posing in a high vis vest fest, along with the failed staff and directors who apparently could not spot the silt or debris in the pool that they claimed to be doing something at during their “customer service week”.
The silt has obviously been building up with litter debris over at least 20 years. There is talk from local residents that some dredging was carried out around the early 2000’s but this was only to dig “a channel” and did not remove anything around the edges. We know from the recently obtained NIRS reports from the Environment agency that contamination from Severn Trent Water PLC has been occurring at the site since at least 2006, linked to bird deaths at the time.
“Smethwick hall park is quite heavily polluted by wrong connections and is also covered with litter to the extent that litter is the favoured nesting material for coots, no dead birds seen at time of visit, but seven were seen during a second visit a week later”
After the discovery of the Smethwick turdberg and the raw sewage in the lake, SMBC then devised a kneejerk let’s remove the blockage disaster at the outfall from the lake. All that this achieved was to create the “perfect” breeding ground for Severn Trent’s microbes of excrement by dropping the water levels significantly to expose the turdberg to direct sunlight.
The recent hot weather and also rain has provided the final straw, but let’s not pretend that this is some “natural” event that has lead to these circumstances, it is a series of managerial failures and poor decisions made of top of these which have made the situation worse.
I made a complaint to SMBC about this before the recent spate of deaths, particularly about the failures to clear and maintain the silt and litter situation that had built up. At this time, SMBC staff had at least acknowledged their failures of communication with regard to their contractors HILLS who were supposedly tasked with clearing out and maintaining this pool amongst others.
The official response that I got was a pack of spin doctor bollocks, which failed to acknowledge any of the statements that these same staff had made in private.
“Dear Mr Carroll,
We have responded to your case with reference number CU124317552.
I refer to your recent correspondence concerning Smethwick Hall Park.
Severn Trent, the Environment Agency and Sandwell MBC have been working closely together to improve the overall quality of the pool. Severn Trent have recently discovered an unmapped overflow that unfortunately had cause some pollution into it, however the Environment Agency removed much of the contaminated water and subsequently pumped clean water back into it.
There is a large sediment bank within the pool, it is our understanding that this has contributed towards its stagnation. We are currently looking at potential feasibility options regarding the removal of this bank.
The management of outflow at the pool is undertaken on a monthly basis through contractors.
We are aware of issues where children have entered the pool and walked upon the sediment bank. As you’re aware, some signage has been placed around this location and we are also working with relevant partners to actively discourage and prevent any further instances of this nature occurring again. However, we cannot provide around the clock supervision at this site. Therefore, should you witness any person entering this area I would encourage you to contact the local police service (telephone number 111) or our Environmental protection team (telephone number 0121 569 2200).
We will continue to work with partners to ensure that the pool is kept clear from contamination and are seeking further assurances from Severn Trent to prevent this from happening again. We are also looking at the viability to install a permanent aerator into this pool.
Thank you for showing an interest in this matter.
Kind regards Customer Feedback Team
The claim about Severn Trent’s “had cause some pollution into it,”, whatever the hell that means, refers to the raw sewage that local observers and the Environment agency recorded, yet why do SMBC attempt to deny the serious nature of what THEY KNOW had gone into the pool? The signage that they put up failed to communicate ANY of the risks of danger to the public, failures under The Health and Safety at Work ACT, and also The Occupiers Liability ACT when it comes to excluding unwanted trespassers to a known site containing danger.
Even the latest sign that they have put up, still fails to acknowledge what the “contamination” was!
Instead of attempting to cover up their and Severn Trent’s mess, perhaps a little honesty instead of deliberate spin doctoring would not go amiss.
I stated to SMBC that their response was garbage, and also the provision of false information as regards what had really happened with the contractors. And then I received this response, which appears to suggest that the failed management themselves get to decide what is a complaint and when someone can make it!
To unravel the lies a little further, I put in A freedom of Information request to SMBC about the said supposed “monthly” clearance of this lake by Hills, and the response only drops them further in the shit.
“(I) Could you please supply all correspondence held with Severn Trent Water including emails and attachments in relation to the confirmed sewage pollution and other matters which occurred earlier this year.
(11) All correspondence held between yourselves and your contractors HILLS for clearing out the outfall into this lake, when it was realised that this supposedly monthly task had not been done for many months. NB conversations with council officers have explicitly stated that this was the case.”
The response was a series of emails which I have deciphered below. What is apparent here is that SMBC supplied no emails about the confirmed sewage incident with Severn Trent itself. The only communication between the two parties appears to have been about some herras fence panels that had been left behind by Severn Trent.
It is clear from the “monthly trash screen inspections” from SMBC that the pool on February 27th was seen to “need long reach mechanical to clear debris in grid.”
What is not clear from this one supplied monthly inspection is how long this issue had been flagged. I have therefore put in a further FOI request to SMBC in regard to these records going back a few years.
The issue at the site at the end of April only appears to have triggered this grid block flag however, as an email from an SMBC officer confirms.
It appears that removing this blockage cost SMBC via Hills £2,362.25.
Later in June, well after the proven raw sewage issue had been noted and SMBC officers were fully aware of this, it appears that SMBC again contacted Hills with a view to removing the now exposed turdberg of shit at the other end of the pool. Once again SMBC refer to this as “a sediment bank”- not revealing any of the issues surrounding it which were well known to them.
Hills responded stating that the sediment needed to be properly tested- and so they should as a responsible contractor baring in mind that known human waste contaminated with shit would be classed as “special waste”. It appears that Hills also refer to their previous job at the site which appears to indicate that this material from the outlet to the pool was given to SMBC to get rid off at their leisure. One can of course only speculate as to what SMBC did with this, or if any of the tests referred to, baring in mind the known human excrement contamination of the pool were carried out.
What happens next with this removal of silt should perhaps be taken out of the hands of all those who have previously had involvement with this site. I would not recommend the manual removal of this known human waste contaminated turdberg. When Hills undertook the debris removal at the other end, the smell was horrendous and the liquids were split all over the path outside someone’s house and leading to a school entrance. The risks of spreading this vile crap all over the grass and banks of the pool near Margaret gardens should not be contemplated.
Only a more expensive vaccum truck removal technology will suffice here, which limits the amount of this material being spread even further. The risks to the birds at the site will also have to be considered and the area fenced off for many weeks after any removal has taken place.
Personally I would cut off and partially infill the area where the council; have now finally erected a barrier to stop the birds entering this high risk area, including the island. I would cut off Severn Trent’s asset from the pool permanently, or if this cannot be done, turn this area into a permanent interceptor which does not allow anything but clean water out into the pool. Reed planting should be encouraged to help manage this process.
The dredging of the rest of the pool, is going to be a very costly operation. I believe a similar exercise at Redhouse Park cost around £400,000. Perhaps a polypropylene liner should be considered to further reduce the risk from the pool.
In terms of costs, perhaps it is time for local businesses in this area to step up to the plate and make a contribution. It should also be noted that just half a mile away, SMBC have acquired and are spending themselves around £4 million pounds on tarting up West Smethwick Park- a fraction of which really needs to be spent on a park with already adequate facilities. Unfortunately however, SMBC are a vanity project led organisation who will throw millions in one direction while everything else goes to shit creek.
Things such as restoring the Chance bust- an industrialist polluter company in the area are a fucking joke of taxpayers money quite frankly. The Chance family themselves should pay for this not us.
Of course the “idiots” who pay the idiots at SMBC to make grave errors of judgement are never listened to, and so I unfortunately see the disaster at Smethwick hall park only continuing for some time to come. Perhaps in 2022 when the eyes of the world are on Sandwell for the Commonwealth games where the aquatics centre is to be built in the next street, the grim reality of the local environment will finally be dealt with as a “legacy”.