After handing in a petition to Sandwell council concerning the dire situation at Smethwick Hall Park and the associated related deaths at Victoria park and West Smethwick Park, the response was awaited in the form of an officer report. We met Maria Crompton and officers on site to also discuss this and the possible plans.
There was also a further response from Liv Garfield CEO of Severn Trent Water concerning this petition, who offered to set up a meeting with her senior officers at the site.
These officers also met with Sandwell council, who have also submitted a bid to STW for their community fund. Both meetings were largely positive, and it was revealed that SMBC would desilt the pool at Smethwick Hall, which it should be remembered was contaminated with raw sewage– a major cause of fuelling avian botulism in the type of conditions which exist at this park pool.
This week, the report was released,with some other documents on the SMBC CMIS website, and will be considered by the SMBC cabinet for approval on March 18th.
I have to say that this is a most welcome report , and the plan in place will hopefully do much to put right some of the damage done by previous slow action and incompetence.
The main points being out forward are
- The desilting of Smethwick Hall Park- Option 1 would see a partial desilting and on site repository . Option 2 would see complete desilting and the pool reduced by 50% to also contain the resulting silt. There would also be a new outlet created.
- Remedial works to the brook which flows into the pool.
- Aerators added to several parks to increase oxygenation in the water.
- The return of a park pool maintenance team for the borough.
The cost benefits of Option 2 far out way those of option 1, and there is also no doubt that only a complete removal of silt will suffice to remove the contaminated material. This is also true for the brook, which we also know to have been contaminated by raw sewage.
The new aerators are in line with APHA guidance in dealing with avian botulism incidents, but also there needs to be focus on removing organic debris contained in some of the pools.
I have no idea why the parks maintenance team was ever disbanded, and clearly this was a retrograde political step back in 2016 when it was. Pools remain a major focal point in parks, and with the council’s vision and boasts about green flags etc, this can only be welcomed as an actual positive step in making them a better place for avian and human visitors.
The full council press release concerning this, where they claim to be spending a total of £342,000 can be read HERE.
How the council funds this scheme is of course down to them, but hopefully the Severn Trent fund will be successful, though it was explained that the company themselves do not have direct control of this process.
The reduction of the pool size is to be regretted, but will also help maintain the pool better.
There are details such as timetables and engineering issues which have yet to be set out, and the effect of works on the birds will also be important. There may well be some challenging issues ahead, and monitoring of the effects will be down to us to deal with.
There is also the issue as to whether STW can deliver on ensuring that there are no more sewage issues connected into this site, which unfortunately the report strangely does not choose to mention.
Perhaps with the Commonwealth games on the horizon, this decision taken by SMBC was on the cards, but be in no doubt that the petitions handed in to the authority and to the water company themselves were a key driver in delivering these positive plans.