Save Smethwick’s park birds!

When I last updated on this terrible situation at Smethwick Hall park, Sandwell council had put off taking action- to desilt the pool, for receipt of information from post mortem results on the birds taken to the APHA at Shrewsbury, and for the Environment Agency tests on the silt and the water in the pool. This followed the meeting of July 18th.

These results are now in, yet there appears to be continued no action from SMBC, and one has to wonder why? I will look at these issues in this post.

What is clear from the post mortems is that there is inconsistency in “cause” of death, but suspicion that these deaths are botulism related. At this point it is important to stress that this illness is caused by poor water conditions and circulation, as well as contamination.

The Severn Trent raw sewage that went into the pool, combined with the lack of remedial management of this pool by SMBC is the cause of the problem. It is also worth stating that Severn Trent employees who attended the meeting were lying about the “improved” water quality at the pool. From the EA results, it is proven that this simply is a pack of lies from these multiple polluting corporate charlatans.

As will  also be revealed, the situation has now got worse in that birds from West Smethwick park have now been affected, including a family of much loved swans. The issues at Victoria Park have also not gone away, and whilst the situation at Stony Lane remains in “shitu” , all birds on these parks and beyond are at risk.



SMBC provided me with a list of birds that they had picked up dead from Smethwick Hall Park. Following the installation of the “bird cage” to keep the creatures out of the contaminated raw sewage area off Margaret Gardens where it had entered, the number being picked up dead and being seen ill started to fall- particularly in the geese. I would state that this is due to them no longer being able to access the contaminated area so easily, though contamination in the main body of water would still be present.


17th July 2019                   7  x geese

17th July 2019                   1 x goose

18th July 2019                   1 x goose

24th July 2019                   2 x geese            1 x duck

25th July 2019                   10 x geese          1 x coot

26th July 2019                   2 x geese

Fence erected

29th July 2019                   2 x geese

30th July 2019                   1 x goose

5th August 2019               3 x geese

15th August 2019             1 x duck

16th August 2019             1 x goose            2 x ducks

I would add to these figures, that myself and an associate removed 5 ill geese from the pool which were taken to a rescue centre. Three of these survived with treatment to make a full recovery. 

Unfortunately smaller birds– mallards and coots are still able to enter the vile shallow contaminated area.


All of the birds that can access this area are in serious danger, and are capable of flying out to other sites and causing problems there.



Certainty of contamination with raw sewage!

It is highly conceivable that these birds that had ingested material contaminated with botulism and could and still can fly to other sites. Birds at Victoria park , where there had been a noticeable lull in deaths started to occur again after the raw sewage pollution and the deaths on site at Smethwick Hall. It would be remiss not to link the obvious connections given that the two pools are less than  a mile apart.

Unfortunately it appears that only a small number of the birds seen to be dead during the early stages of this problem made it to Shrewsbury for post mortem! The quality of their remains being sent for investigation is another issue- particularly it seems when they are being stored in the council’s waste freezer at Shidas Lane as was the case with birds last year from Victoria Park. This submission, APHA reference 26-B0090-07-19 consisted of two geese, a duck, and remains that were not really identifiable. They were also frozen, so were not freshy dead when reported on 11th July 2019. I.E PRIOR TO THE LIST THAT I HAD BEEN PROVIDED WITH BY SMBC. FURTHER NOTE THE DATES OF BIRDS PICKED UP IN THE SUBSEQUENT SUBMISSIONS FROM VICTORIA PARK. 


It is notable that the APHA again included the link to their “avian botulism” management guidance.


Subsequent supplemental reports confirmed no evidence of AI. No evidence of salmonella and no evidence of West Mile virus. They also said

“We will send a sample for a botulinum toxin ELISA test but due to the state of preservation of the carcases, false negative results are a possibility.”

This test proved negative for the tested birds, with the caveat about the condition received noted.



I have sort clarification from SMBC as to what happened to the many birds retrieved by SMBC staff in the supplied list between July and August. I have to date received nothing from them which leads me to believe that these birds never made it out of the Shidas Lane freezer!

This, if confirmed, is a disgusting lack of action by this council, and I would remind people of the comments made publicly by two cabinet members when this story was first raised. Claims about wanting to find out what was causing the deaths of the birds is just not accurate when they have failed to even allow them to be post mortemed.

“Councillor Maria Crompton, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for safer communities, said: “Unfortunately a number of birds have died at Smethwick Hall Park.

“I am very concerned that we get to the root cause of this as a matter of urgency.”” 




I have also had sight of comments made by Councillor Wasim Ali about “taking birds to Shrewsbury” from someone else who had made him aware of the situation. I will update this post with a screenshot when I have this.

Two further submissions from Victoria Park in the same month were more compelling.

APHA Ref. No. 26-B0118-07-19

On 15/07/2019 a moorhen was submitted. NB- This was four days after SMBC had picked up the dead birds at the raw sewage polluted Smethwick Hall park. 




Subsequent supplemental reports confirmed no salmonella present.

A fourth report however finally confirmed that this bird HAD tested positive for botulinum testing. 


A further mixed species submission was made on 18/7/19NB This was a week after the birds seen dead at Smethwick Hall were submitted and 3 days after the moorhen at Victoria Park- confirmed to have tested positive for botulinum testing. 

APHA Ref. No. 26-B0130-07-19

This consisted of 3 geese, 1 tufted duck, three mallards, a coot and one unidentifiable bird carcass. These were numbered as follows. It is vital to note the condition of birds 5, 6 and 7- smaller birds (2 ducks and the coot), that were found to contain maggots. It is clear that these birds had been dead in the water for at least a few days- perfect conditions for spreading botulism. 


The two young geese were suspected to be suffering from “a viral infection”



A subsequent report looked further into the birds able to be taken forward for testing.






No west nile virus was detected, but crucially the test in this young goose (bird 2) confirmed botulism present.


I believe that after the Smethwick Hall Park pollution, the ducks and coot and moorhen had flown to Victoria Park, or at least one of them. When they died in the water and were left there for  a period of time, the maggots produced would pass on the toxin and be ingested by the other birds.

I would note the following recently published article from the  Veterinary Record from Paul Holmes of the APHA. NB Paul Holmes is the VIO who has post mortemed many of the birds sent from Sandwell’s pools at Shrewsbury, and I am in regular contact with him about this situation.

The following points in this article are relevant to the situation at Smethwick Hall Park and also to the environmental conditions found in this raw sewage contaminated lake. It is interesting to note from Paul Holmes’ article that the majority of birds with botulism are from “urban parks, canals and reservoirs”. I would add that it is potentially being caused by water company pollution issues such as the proven one at SHP.

“Environmental changes resulting in eutrophic (with low dissolved oxygen) water conditions, linked with suitable substrate, can promote toxin production by the bacteria. For example, raised ambient temperatures, poor water quality, fluctuating water levels leading to shallow stagnant areas and warming of the soil and sediment can promote toxin production….

…Unfortunately, carcases received for postmortem examination are often poorly preserved due to the difficulty of locating them and the time required for transportation to the laboratory. Avian botulism is difficult to diagnose as there are no gross or microscopic diagnostic lesions caused by the disease, but postmortem examination of birds is essential to rule out other possible diseases.

Typically, birds are found dead in relatively good body condition but with no evidence of recent feeding. Diagnostic tests for botulinum toxin are not routinely performed due to the quality of many of the birds received and difficulty of detecting toxin in the carcases. A presumptive diagnosis can be made when there are typical clinical signs reported and the absence of other causes of death.”


I submitted a freedom of information request to the EA to obtain these results, and to ascertain the quality of the sediment and the water. It is worth stating that both SMBC and STW had been sent these results in advance of my request and that they had not been shared with local residents who attended the meeting at the park when the EA took them. But no comment it appears from either of these organisations so far in the significance of the results. Why?

The results supplied by the EA show that raw sewage did enter the water, and was still present when the meeting took place, despite the false claims of STW in the press about improved water quality. At the meeting, some individual from STW claimed to have taken readings at the pool to demonstrate improved water quality, yet the EA results taken on the same day disprove this liar and his company totally. Severn Trent water and their staff are making up results, and this should serve as a wake up call to regulators and politicians about how water companies cannot continue to mark their own work, and hide their raw sewage pollution with lying figures such as in this case.

The sediment results can be viewed HERE, and the locations of samples taken in the map.

The water sample results can be viewed HERE, and the locations of samples taken in the map.

I had hoped to speak to an EA spokesman for clarification on these results before posting this post, but I feel it important to post it now and will add the comments at a later date. What is clear is that human raw sewage was detected as well as bird faecal matter as would be expected. Salmonella and E Coli were also detected, though it should be noted that none of the post mortemed birds tested positive for these illnesses.

Raw sewage cannot have a good effect on water quality, and the fact that the EA have not carried out any further tests is again worrying and it is obviously still in the pool- thus the water quality is not going to magically improve is it?

I would remind people that during this raw sewage pollution incident, SMBC failed to inform the public pf the risk, and that several children were seen “playing in the mud” as the council referred to it as!


A risk to human health not managed by Sandwell council


I have still to receive any acknowledgement  to the request I made to SMBC regards their inspections of the pool at Smethwick Hall Park. I believe they are delaying this because it would show that the poor water quality and blocked outfall resulting in the dire and stagnant conditions HAD been flagged for many weeks to months, yet management had not acted. When they did kneejerk react and unblock the outfall- an absolutely and catastrophic management decision, it resulted in the disastrous lowering of the water levels and fluctuation to allow the birds access to the still contaminated raw sewage laden silt off Margaret Gardens where it was allowed to bake in the Summer sun.

I will now be forced once again to go out of my way and make a complaint to the ICO, but this will be a very strongly worded letter, showing just how Sandwell’s FOI officers are failing to do their jobs properly and comply with the law regarding FOI. I am not the only person who has had issues with FOI in Sandwell


The communication from officers at the RSPCA who took away, euthanised and retrieved dead and ill birds has been none existent, and I would add professionally rude. They have contributed nothing to the evidence base regards figures as to what they have picked up, how many birds survived, and if any of these were post mortemed, despite my emails and phone calls to their national control centre. I have no idea why this is the case, if they care, but I am pursuing a complaint to their HQ in Sussex.

The continuing situation at SHP and Victoria Park and the subsequent flight of birds at the end of the moult is suspected of leading to the situation on the third of Smethwick’s parks- West Smethwick Park– just a quarter of a mile away from SHP. This site has had a long history of breeding swans, with high numbers of offspring produced- in fact one year a record 10 cygnets. They were much loved by local residents and park users in The Friends group.

On the late bank holiday of August, it appears that one dead cygnet had been picked up by SMBC, with another reported to be ill. It was reported that the swan was showing the same clinical signs as seen at the other two parks, so was suspected of having botulism. SMBC claim that the RSPCA picked up the ill cygnet and took it away. They further allege that the ACO who picked up this swan stated that the RSPCA would remove the swans from the lake- due to the obvious threat that they were now in.

Over the next few weeks this did not happen. On 16th September, I received a call from an SMBC manager to say that there was another ill cygnet on the pool. There was also a dead coot in the water, and another bird that was remains that had sunk- hence the dead birds being present in the water, that had probably come from Smetwhick Hall Park. The following day when SMBC launched a boat, they reported picking up a further 2 dead coots, off the island, and three dead mallards.

The cygnet was caught by myself on the day it was reported and the RSPCA ACO took it away. Despite having all of our phone numbers, he did not get back to any of us as to where the cygnet was taken and what had happened to it. The SMBC manager again reminded him of what he had earlier said about removing all of the swans to prevent them from the obvious threat that they were now in. This left a pair of swans and three remaining cygnets.

On Friday 20th September 2019 the remaining swans from the swan family on this pool  were all on still present. On Saturday 21st September the council state that  “the RSPCA were called out.  They retrieved 1 x dead parent and 1 x dead cygnet.  They also took 1 x poorly cygnet to Vale Wildlife Centre for treatment (we are awaiting an update from RSPCA as to the health of this cygnet).  ”

I was unaware of this when visiting the park on the following day Sunday 22nd September.   The remaining female parent and cygnet were dead.  These were collected by an associate of mine and taken to SMBC at Shidas Lane Depot on Monday 23rd September 2019 for the council to take them for post mortem. He had offered to take them to Shrewsbury if the council would not take them.


These two birds are currently undergoing post mortem tests, though it is unclear as to if any of the other birds from either this site, or Smethwick Hall even made it there- as evidenced by the email below!


No further communication from the RSPCA has been forthcoming. More dead coots have also been reported at West Smethwick to myself by a member of the friends group, and it is again unclear as to what SMBC have done with these. Clearly, if we are ever going to establish the truth of this, then SMBC will have to honour the statements that its politicians have made publicly , or risk looking like they could care less.

A recent Express and Star article quotes Maria Crompton as stating that the council would be pressing ahead with desilting the issue at Smethwick Hall Park- and I’ll believe that when I see it as no time scale is offered. It is further stated that they expect Severn Trent Water to reimburse them for this work- I will believe that when I see it also, as to date this inept lying water polluter has done it can via its dishonest lying staff to conceal their major part in this wildfowl genocide.

“We are actively seeking a resolution to this matter and will continue to do so. It is the responsibility of Severn Trent to address any contamination entering the pool and when this has been rectified we shall seek appropriate reimbursement for any remedial work required.”

Continue to seek a resolution, or actually ACT to resolve it?

It should never be forgotten that this was the council who in 2013/14 rounded up and murdered 220 geese and lied about it. One wonders if this episode has just been a convenient way of offloading a few more whilst they “seek a resolution” that never ends. 


If you are reading this and live in the Smethwick area, please make people aware of the situation at Stony Lane and impress on Sandwell council the urgent need to take action at this site to save Smethwick’s park birds. 

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.