Smethwick Parks latest- Separating the facts from the shit

It has been over two years now since the ghastly horror show caused by private water company Severn Trent PLC at Smethwick Hall park, where raw sewage resulted in the deaths of dozens of birds.

This pollution as it transpired had been happening for several years before this, as an FOI request to The Environment agency revealed. 

Before this, a similar event was occurring at Victoria Park in the same town , a pool fed by the Thimblemill brook, (see further below in this post), some of which is culverted, but other areas allowing a view of pollution flowing through it.

This blog has uncovered a great deal about these events, and investigated how this company have been failing for years to control what goes through their network, as well as causing pollution through their own negligence and also deliberate folly. They have been fined again and again, but it is not enough, and too much they are getting away with, as this case proves.

There are two phrases which need to be properly defined in conjunction with reading this post, and both have been deliberately misused by both Severn Trent and the environment agency in an appalling effort to try to dismiss the events as somehow “natural”.

The fact is is that these deaths do not occur on all pools in the summer, and do not occur as a result of “climate change” or anything else. They occur due to linked pollution events where sewage and human waste enters waters where it never should have and this then starts the poisoning of the environment by the die off of small invertebrates which are then ingested by the wildfowl. To call this

“AVIAN BOTULISM” is a grotesque and disingenuous lie, as I have alluded to before. They claim it to be “natural”, but cannot answer as to why it only appears to occur in certain heavily populated urban areas, and never countryside areas, and why not in all water bodies within these urban areas, just the ones where manmade pollution and human faeces is visible. I WOULD LIKE TO STATE AT THIS POINT THAT I KNOW I AM RIGHT IN STATING THAT ALL “AVIAN BOTULISM” IS BEING CAUSED BY WATER COMPANY FAILURE IN ALLOWING RAW SEWAGE TO ENTER WATER COURSES. 

It suits both the failed private water companies and the EA as their useless regulator to attempt to defraud the public of the facts in this matter, and so a symbiotic relationship emerges where they both lie about the direct pollution through manmade cause. The human health risks are also played down, and one should perhaps look more closely at outbreaks of e-coli and norovirus and people’s contact with water bodies that have become polluted with human waste. This used to be the bread and butter of what “public health” was about, but now we appear to be dominated by a “pandemic” where they even attempt to track an alleged virus, rather than human shite entering water bodies where it causes more damage.

“MISCONNECTIONS”

This term is a lie because it appears to water down and suggest the threat of the pollution as being less harmful to the environment than it really is. STW would like the public to believe that this is just “dirty water” from washing machines, but what it really is is everything flushed down the bog untreated going straight into a water course. Why lie behind a word, we can see exactly what it is, so stop treating the public like fucking fools!

STW have been claiming they have been working on this for over two years now, and indeed it has come to my attention that one of the properties was an express supermarket store located up the road from Smethwick Hall park. From what we have seen , they have not done the job of preventing raw sewage going straight into this watercourse. IT’S A HUMAN HEALTH RISK, AND EVERYONE KNOWS IT. 

SMETHWICK HALL PARK

After Sandwell council had forged ahead with a partial desilting of the pool , there had not been any recorded deaths, (at least not seen by us), that is until around the end of July , which followed a noted sewage pollution incident in the lake. Two dead geese were reported, and following this, dead coots and mallards.

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There were the usual used bum rag tissue remains, sewage fur and sanitary towels lining the pool inlet area, along with grey foul smelling water punctuated by floating globs of shite.

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Unfortunately, this area is serving as a sewage filter bed at present, allowing algal growth to explode around it. It is an area where the birds, particularly smaller ones gather to dabble. I believe strongly that this is what is causing the worst of the deaths.

I made a video venting my spleen about the situation which can be seen below on our facebook page.

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As before, we thought the best way to proceed was to erect a fence out of this area to stop the birds entering. We were not going to wait for the inaction of SMBC again to do this.

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Following the isolation of this area from the birds, there have been no subsequent deaths, though some braindead tosser keeps throwing split peas into the  area which are now turning mouldy!

It is quite apparent that this area was not dredged by the council contractor, and this is a poor oversight on their part. 

I reported the matter as always to the EA, and obtained a reference number. I knew full well of course that the useless EA would just pass this on to the polluters- Severn Trent to investigate. On this note I saw two STW staff pay a less than 5 minute visit to the site to apparently take a water sample from the inlet end. No tests were done at any other points on the pool during this visit.

 

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The other observation concerned the allotments, through which this heavily polluted water flows into the pool. I saw some individuals using a mechanical digger on the site, and it was clear that some excavation work was proceeding. I was told by an SMBC employee that a pipe was located in the area.

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What is also clear is that the van that had bought the digger had the Severn Trent logo on its side, as I have seen the company AMEY a subcontractor use this, I assumed it to be them, but what were they actually doing on the site?

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White Ford MJ59 TUH

Both the EA and SMBC park managers contacted STW where they were told that STW denied going onto the site. I was separately told when enquiring about what had happened by the EA local office for an update that STW had located “misconnections” and had “tankered out” the pollution from this site. I asked them “had they jet washed this out so it came down the stream, and therefore into the pool”, where I was told they had not.

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I contacted Ross Stokes, and Andrew Fairburn of STW, who we had met on site a year before claiming that STW would be doing all kinds of wonderful things, which have yet to ever transpire, as well as sending SMBC down a diverted path for their so called “community fund” which they turned down.

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We can see what had escaped from the evidence in the pool, so why lie?

The response I received denies that STW or their operatives were on site, so I am still therefore baffled as to what actually happened here and what individuals appear to be covering up. Perhaps some dodgy character is going around pretending to be “the water board” on a van having the Severn Stench logo on it doing foreigners? This claim is also entirely different from what the EA told me and so it is little more than bullshit.

I’ve made a formal complaint about the EA in relation to this incident, and their lack of response where I have also asked for the incident response form. I was told by the officer that they did not come out “due to Government cuts”. I would like to see this in writing, and have also taken this up with my Conservative MP, who may also have something to say about that.

As for SMBC, who are not working with Severn Trent at all, I am still to resolve when their “water team” is going to start retrieving dead birds by using a boat, which SMBC possess, as well as who is going to take dead birds to the APHA at Shrewsbury for post mortems. There is friction between managers in parks, and Grounds maintenance, which the water team come under. This is something that SMBC must resolve, as it has been left to us once again to retrieve the dead coots that were left to rot.

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Baz from scared animal wildlife rescue has been a legend as always.

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The birds were riddled with maggots, meaning that this is another source of infection for other birds who may ingest contaminated maggots.

A meeting on site took place this week  with SMBC interim director over parks. We will see what transpires from this and I will hopefully post something positive soon, though I am not holding my breath based on previous experience. He does however appear to recognise the importance of obtaining and preserving a chain of evidence in connection to the third party private water company wreaking havoc on a council asset.

VICTORIA PARK AND THIMBLEMILL BROOK

I am not very familiar with this watercourse, but have now added it to my regular checks. It flows towards Smethwick into the Victoria Park inlet via Norman Road and Cheshire Road, and has three open sections, where some lengths also pass under culverts.

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It is a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation. Three small pools are present, and on my first visit the first two wee fairly clear, but the third by Broadmoor Avenue stank. I am also aware that Sandwell valley countryside rangers had reported a pollution issue to STW and the EA in July, and it was described to me that it was the same familiar grey water, sanitary towels and crap. The council had had no feedback from either of the two organisations. I have mentioned this to the new director at the council to take these matters up. Clearly once again, this private water company are not working with Sandwell Council.

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Last year, a similar event appears to have occurred at this brook course shortly before we noticed dead and ill birds on Victoria Park. Of course they are linked, linked not by “misconnections” but by Severn Trent Water’s pollution of this brook which they appear incapable of stopping.

 

WEST SMETHWICK PARK

This park, not linked in the same way as the others appears to have suffered as a direct result of infected birds flying onto the site in 2019 and then dying, and thus starting off the process of deaths.

The new concern is a result of managerial and planning related negligence in that they appear to think it a good idea to drop the water levels at this time during the hot weather and undertake purely aesthetic works as a part of a heritage lottery “restoration” of the park. This project is a strange chimera vanity project however in that although they want to anally restore a view from some early 20th Century postcard around the lake, they also want to erect a new white elephant building that was never there. Like the aquatics centre down the road with its spiralling multi million pound costs, it is an obscene waste of money that could be better used- on nature conservation and clean healthy pools for example.

I requested and was told that the works would be put off till the winter, but I was lied to again by SMBC. 

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“Restoring” something that was never there.

Workers were starting to drain the top pool and the water levels are now at what I consider to be dangerous levels for the fish.

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To make matters worse, the aerators fitted at the pool appeared to have been turned off, and once again I had a rambling incoherent nonsense from parks management as to what was occurring here, with the claim now being that they “turn on and off”.

It also now appears that the council are to remove a large section of reed bed from the lake, to be replaced by the “terra cotta army” of sectional concrete blocks lined up on the former boathouse area.

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But fear not, apparently it’s only going to be 1.5 metres from the bank that is going to be removed so that these can be put in. WTF!!!  😡

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A coot nest is left high and dry by the 8 inch drop in water levels.

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A dirty water fraud

This is another post exposing pollution in our area caused by the water industry and by the failure of The Environment Agency to keep them in check through inadequate regulation.

Previously, I reported on how The Rivers Trust had exposed this abysmal polluting industry and how raw sewage was entering water courses through combined sewers and through a process known as “event duration monitors”. These “monitors” were set up to monitor release of sewage during heavy rainfall, but not to stop the pollution from entering the system to start with.

The RT report, as revealed in an ITN news story highlighted that

“64 years worth of raw sewage dumped into rivers and streams by Severn Trent”

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Shameful

The Rivers Trust published a report and an interactive map to track such events.

 READ THEIR REPORT HERE.

YOU CAN VISIT THE MAP AT THIS LINK. 

Two events stuck out concerning issues that we have had with ill birds at Victoria park Smethwick- fed by the Thimblemill Brook via Norman Road, and of course Smethwick Hall park, where STW incompetence of asset management led to a horrific spill of raw sewage in 2019, which they failed to rectify out of their own pocket.

These were the key points in the RT report about these sites, and it also revealed the permits used to justify this.

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31 TIMES FOR 44 HOURS

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7 TIMES FOR 5 HOURS

On this matter , I submitted an EIR request to STW. previously they have attempted to dodge answering some FOI’s and had to be reminded that they are still liable for answering matters relating to environmental issues. 

With respect to the two Smethwick permits I asked the following via as always, the brilliant whatdotheyknow.com.

“Please provide by electronic means data you hold in respect of your permits
T/09/30212/O Smethwick Londonderry Lane (Cso)
T/08/35707/O Stanhope Road/Davison Road Junction (Cso).

For each please specify if you have installed event duration monitors and when these were installed. Please give information for all years for each permit for
(1)Total Duration (hours) of all spills prior to processing through 12-24 hour counting method
(2) Counted spills using 12- 24hr counting method
(3) % of reporting period EDM operational
(4)First Reporting Year

Please confirm if the information is by calendar year or financial year.”

After sending me some incomprehensible gibberish, STW did provide this answer in excel form. 

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One can see from this that the situation at Stony Lane has got worse over the last three years between 2018-2020. Data from the other site only started in 2019.

One of my main concerns about pollution issues is the self monitoring issue of this company, who lied about one such event at a nature reserve. This also stems from the fact that the EA send out this company when there is a suspected pollution arising from their network, and also the fact that the common incident classification system is not fit for purpose when it comes to evaluating environmental damage to wildfowl, rather than fish.  The EA told me that they do not attend category 3 incidents, and it is apparent that most are given this number, which does not adequately summarise the amount of damage caused by the incident- particularly when wildfowl become ill or affected.

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The way in which the EA classify these incidents is the problem.

The second FOI I asked about water was to the EA, and how many of the reported incidents of pollution to and and water in their Midlands area had been identified caused by Severn Trent. This would give a good indicator of how many incidents this one company had caused, and also whether they are a fit for purpose entity for tracing and preventing water pollution from occurring.

I asked

“Please provide by electronic means in excel spreadsheet form the number of category 1, 2 and 3 incidents to both land and water for calendar years 2013-2020 in the Staffordshire, Warwickshire, and West midlands area.
Please also disclose for each year, how many of these incidents were causally linked to Severn Trent Water, a third party whom you often call to attend incidents which may involve their own illegal discharges.”

The EA significantly delayed answering this request and I had to chase it, but finally came up with an excel form to show the parameters asked for.

NUMBER CRUNCHING

The figures below are quite striking, and the response from the agency in different formats shows why their own classification system is a fraud and also how the water industry is hiding behind HOW the incidents are classified. NB THESE ARE REPORTED INCIDENTS ONLY, AND ONE CAN GUESS THAT MANY MORE WERE NOT SEEN OR EVALUATED IF THEY WERE NOT REPORTED. 

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Source- Environment Agency

Taken as all incidents of pollution, categories 1-3, Severn Trent are revealed here as a major water polluter, if not the greatest single water polluter in the region.

Between the years 2013-2020, they were responsible for

2013 29%,

2014 23%,

2015  20.7%,

2016 27.7%,

2017  27.9%,

2018   26.8%,

2019     28%,

2020 20.4%.

This reveals an average of  25.8% ,  over the 8 year period meaning that this water company, who claim to be promoting environmental efficacy for a clean water environment, are causing over a quarter of the pollution in our area! THIS IS A DISGRACE! 

Further breakdowns however show how this can be hid by the classification system when it comes to land and water to make it appear like less damage is being done.

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Source- Environment Agency

By far the majority of Severn Trent’s pollution assaults on the environment are being tagged as category 3, meaning that they are down marking their own work to provide this fraud when the EA call them out to reports from members of the public. The EA cannot know the real picture from a phone call from a report from a member of the public, and the fact that their staff do not attend incidents which the form filling exercise tells them isn’t having a detrimental impact due to the shite classification system means that Severn Trent will simply correlate that downgrading to avoid being fined.

By far the most telling statistic from these figures are the number of incidents to water at category 3 for which in some years equate to 50% of statistics for this category- see 2013 when 502 out of 1004 incidents were being classified as such, with “no impact to land”.

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Source- Environment Agency

As part of my disgust at the state of play regards this situation, I wrote to my MP Nicola Richards , who wrote to the EA receiving this response from Suzanne Ward, Area environment manager for the area.

The following points were made

  • The EA brought 48 prosecutions against water companies over the last six years- but I am not sure if she refers to those in our region, (and note the figures the EA have supplied above to show how many pollution incidents there have been and those attributable to Severn Trent), or nationally. If this is nationally, then the figure is absolutely pathetic.
  • The storm overflows taskforce sounds like another “multi- agency” back patting exercise. Only one body is needed here, and that should be the EA themselves.
  • She mentions the EDM monitors and how the number has increased, though I would repeat the fact that the water companies are responsible for monitoring these themselves, and have already been caught out telling porkies.
  • “Robust action” is not being taken against water companies, as the EA figures show, basically because their classification system is letting them off the hook. It is a subjective exercise and not an objective one.

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It is incredible at this time that Severn Trent are spouting off about planting trees as some form of “legacy” for a minor sporting event that will take place in the region for 14 days next year. Their record over the last 8 years, as seen from the figures where they are causing a quarter of reported pollution incidents in our region to water. THAT IS THE REAL LEGACY OF SEVERN TRENT WATER PLC, FROM A PARK JUST DOWN THE ROAD FROM THE NEW AQUATICS CENTRE, WHICH THEY FAILED TO EVEN CONTRIBUTE A PENNY TOWARDS RECTIFYING. 

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Severn Trent Water lie about Nature Reserve sewage pollution

In the last post, I discussed how the regions worst environmental polluter, private failing water company Severn Trent had dumped

64 years worth of raw sewage dumped into rivers and streams.

The Rivers Trust had uncovered much about the industry and how it is failing to protect environment from serious harm, and they have published an interactive map, which I urge everyone to look at.  

YOU CAN VISIT THE MAP AT THIS LINK. 

We are fully aware of how Severn Trent polluted parks in Smethwick, via their failed asset network, but a recent incident has again exposed not only them, but also their failed regulation by The Environment agency, who when you report an incident such as the one that I did, simply call out the polluter to investigate.

On 29th April 2021, I was at Sheepwash Nature Reserve in Tipton when we had the most significant fall of rain in over a month in that afternoon. On standing in the area of John’s Lane pool, and with The Groveland Brook course behind me, (and see map below), I suddenly became aware of a fowl stench emanating from this watercourse. It literally stank of shit. 

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On looking behind me , I could see that the water was jet black, and where it met the main River Tame, you could see the colour contrast visibly. 

It was clear that there was broken down particulate matter amongst the noir, as well as the smell,

I traced it back to the area where it enters the reserve at John’s Lane/Morrsion road where it disappears under a field and heads towards Dudley Port.

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There were clearly rags in this mix, and unbroken down wet wipes.

I immediately called The Environment Agency Hotline on 0800 80 70 60, to report the issue. I clearly stated the location and details, and obviously, this was then left in their hands, (or not as the case may be.)  😥

I took some video, and also some pictures. The one below shows the gelatinous mix of brown and algae formed which stained the brook.

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The following day, the 30th, the rain had subsided, and I saw that several items had been left along the brook, including sanitary towels and wet wipes. Some of these corresponded with the level that the brook had reached. These items were consistent with another STW pollution incident in Walsall , where a number of fish were found dead after sewage had overflowed into a lake. On this occasion they sent out a specialist company to clean up the mess.

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Still in the brook

 

I also reported the matter to the council, and later requested feedback on what happened, having been called back by the EA and told they were sending out Severn Trent to investigate.

I looked at the Rivers Trust maps, and can see that there are two STW assets in this area, The Horseley Heath Storage Tank and Manhole 34. Both of these have apparent permits for discharge consent, though of what I am not sure.

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Obviously, this network is not just limited to this, and is underground, so this is where any investigation would need to determine what had gone wrong here.

On hearing nothing back from the EA, and having the incident number, I found out that Severn Trent had claimed to have gone out and found “nothing”!

I do not know what it is they were looking for exactly, but they are liars.

What concerns me here, as I have expressed before, is that when you have a situation where the regulator merely calls the polluter to deal with their own pollution, what chance of them finding any and writing it off when they know they will get fined, and safe in the knowledge that that regulator will not check to confirm the substantiated incident.

This is another example also of poor brownfield building policy in already overcrowded areas, and yet some political figures believe it a good idea to add more onto those already served by an incapable sewage network run by incompetent seven figure salary scum, from Coventry.

Litterwatch Volunteers have recently spent a great deal of time around this site, and I’m sure they do not want to see this type of “litter” arising through the soft underbelly, and neither do The Friends of Sheepwash. In this regard, I will give the new website still under construction another plug.

Protect Sheepwash Local Nature Reserve | Just another WordPress site

I CAN ONLY STATE THAT THIS COMPANY’S APATHY AND LIES NEED TO BE CHALLENGED, AND SO PLEASE MONITOR THIS BROOK COURSE AND OTHERS LIKE IT ON A REGULAR BASIS, AND IF YOU SEE ANY POLLUTION ARISING CALL THE EA ON THE HOTLINE NUMBER, BUT PLEASE TAKE PICTURES AND VIDEO SO THE LIARS CAN BE CHALLENGED. 

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Severn Trent Water- the shit spillers 2020 derision

It appears of late that some journalists have woken up to the dismal failures of the privatised water industry and are actually reporting investigative truth on the matter, as they rightly should.

Recent examples include an ITV Central piece

“64 years worth of raw sewage dumped into rivers and streams by Severn Trent”

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Shameful

“Severn Trent Water, which has its headquarters in Coventry, recorded the second highest number of hours of any water company in the country, and came in third for the number of instances.”

And then a belated BBC piece which revealed from Environment agency published data that water companies in the UK had

“Sewage discharged into rivers 400,000 times in 2020”

Straight in at number 3 on the number 2 top of the slops chart are our not so favourite shit mongers Severn Trent Water PLC.

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STW discharged sewage 60,083 times in 2020 into Rivers.

There are the usual fairly pitiful words from a failed regulator in stopping this rot, and quite frankly I think from experience these characters are little more than puppets of the industry themselves, and will probably end up with private sector jobs in the said industry when they realise that there is more money to be made. It is a system that stinks more than the excrement that goes through the turd farms.

One must praise the work of The Rivers Trust, not to be confused with The Canal and Rivers Trust on uncovering this appalling record.

I would urge everyone to check out their website and their mission statement which reads

“Our vision is wild, healthy, natural rivers, valued by all. With your help, we can make this a reality. Together,  for rivers.”

You can sign up to their newsletter HERE.

Of course, it would be nice to see such a similar vision for park pools and brook courses that feed into the said rivers and have even more concentrated pollution in them before they get diluted down into the wider water courses.

The trusts’s report explains

“Combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and storm overflows (SOs) are designed to discharge untreated, diluted sewage directly into rivers and watercourses in event of extreme rainfall to prevent the flooding of homes and businesses. Whilst we estimate that 40% of them are more likely to be operating as designed with less than 20 spills a year, 40% are now shown to be operating poorly, and 20% are unmonitored, plus there are many inconsistencies in the current data. Any overflow which spills more than 60 times per year should be investigated by the Environment Agency, or 40 times if monitoring has been in place for several years.”

READ THEIR REPORT HERE.

The Trust’s data team created an interactive map using data from the Consented Discharges to Controlled Waters database, managed by the Environment Agency (England) and Natural Resources Wales (Wales), and it makes for fascinating reading when applied to our neck of the woods, and in particular , certain places in the Smethwick area of which we are already very familiar!

YOU CAN VISIT THE MAP AT THIS LINK. 

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31 TIMES FOR 44 HOURS

Stony Lane has one such example of a combined sewer overflow, one which Severn Trent Water claimed they were unaware, but which I say was a total lie on their part in this regard. The event in 2019 where raw sewage poured into the lake initiated a botulism outbreak, another thing which this disgusting polluter attempts to deny any linkage to, despite professional evidence to the contrary that this is one of the main causes of such outbreaks.

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ACTION Raw sewage discharges into wetlands.  CONSEQUENCES OF ACTION – Nutrient enhancement resulting in “boom and bust” invertebrate populations and oxygen depletion causing deaths of aquatic and plant life.”

Of course Sandwell council have spent their own money putting right the Severn Trent’s water pollution, or some of it at the lake, yet when one looks at this it has to be asked if the current permit is allowed to continue like this, then this has been an absolute waste of money?

In this regard I have bluntly asked the council and the interim leadership as to what they intend to do about this, and also attempt to persuade them to instruct counsel into attempting to get this permit revoked.  They have after all caused extensive damage to a Sandwell council asset, without making any form of recompense.

Severn Trent Water led SMBC on a merry dance in this regard and failed to deliver anything. Statements were also made to the council with regards to what they would be doing at this site in terms of monitoring and making the water cleaner, yet so far nothing has arrived. I have asked the council what the timetable as stated by STW would be, and if they are going to hold them to this.

Unfortunately, the quality of the water entering the pool via the inlet at present remains unacceptable and shocking. It stinks and you can see sewage fur building up , a clear sign of abysmal water quality.

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Water is permanently milky white

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There are also questions raised about The Thimblemill Brook which feeds into Victoria Park Smethwick, and one wonders if there is a direct correlation between the event that happened here, the pollution incident as reported, and the subsequent deaths of wildfowl on the lake? It certainly appears that incidents at this pool are directly linked to pollution issues on that brook- all within STW control, or failure to control as the case is.

 

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7 TIMES FOR 5 HOURS

 

NEW REGULATION, MORE OF THE SAME SELF MONITORING?

A private members bill “The sewage (inland waters Bill)” introduced by Philip Dunne MP in 2020 seeks to strengthen regulation. Though running out of time, The Government appear to be going to introduce some of the proposed measures with new legislation. This law will create three key duties: a duty on Government to publish a plan by September 2022 to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows; a duty on Government to report to Parliament on progress on implementing the plan; and a duty on water companies to publish data on storm overflow operations on an annual basis.

I am a little sceptical that this will be just another wagging Whitehall finger rather than a solution to the issue, in that CSO’s should be done away with altogether, as they are, er CRAP.

Part of the problem is rampant house building in already overdeveloped areas, and the more that this goes on and is supported by politicians, then the more crap we will get. 

Another issue is that the EA are just not good enough and may well have had their abilities amputated by cuts to frontline officers not being able to monitor said events. If it is to remain little more than self regulation, what incentive is there for water company polluters like Severn Trent to monitor anything? I would not trust their records in any case. 

Severn Trent really are a company that have no shame, and when one considers that their CEO Liv Garfield is on over £2million for this corporate failure you can probably see why.

I have only dealt with one company more disgusting than them in the last 20 years , in the serial liars and wildlife murderers of Albright and Wilson/Rhodia who poisoned birds with their white phosphorus waste at Rattlechain lagoon and denied it for years.

I have looked at their failures over many years and pollution record HERE. One can see from this that their record is not getting any better, and I looked in another post, how they were fined over £1 million in 2019 for their failures. 

At the same time as their leaks are coming out, they shamefully attempt to divert attention away from this with corporate sponsoring of the White elephant and unwanted Commonwealth Games. The Commonwealth itself has little value these days other than some sad devotion to empire , and the host in Birmingham, one of the dirtiest cities you could ever have the misfortune to visit is perhaps well attuned to the dealers in crud.

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Says Garfield pictured holding some banner

“We’re passionate about making a positive impact on the communities and the environment where we live and operate, and to the lives of everyone that we serve. “ 

Yeah sure, you need to sort your shit out first!

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Smethwick Parks- latrines and tree massacres

Despite the many concerns about desilting part of the raw sewage contaminated pool at Smethwick Hall park, Sandwell council decided to press on regardless after being blanked by polluter Severn Trent Water and their “community fund.”

I was in favour of the proposed original scheme to transform the pool and make a proper job of it, but not what has taken place up till now on the cheap. Environmental safeguards have gone out of the window after what has taken place over the last two weeks, and the disinformation from Sandwell council to the public is as disgraceful as it was after the sewage pollution issue occurred in 2019.

I was not aware that they were going to effectively make a cats toilet with the brown stuff being deposited near to Margaret Gardens and the children’s play area.

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Except, it’s not just “mud”!

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They disingenuously state that they have “discussed the project with Severn Trent Water- (the unstated environmental polluter), and the EA- the useless regulator. The danger is not specified, but let me specify it because this is bio-hazardous waste, potentially harmful to human health.

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“mudbath”

 

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The path around the lake and the banks were strewn with this crap, so if you are walking around here with your animal or kids, “you may want to give it 5…. (timescale of your choice)” as the saying goes.

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Here’s a reminder of what the EA found when they tested the sediment back in June 2019. And also what they reported officially at the time of the incident.

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This has now been banked to land.

might as well have just added to the pile in the hole…

Worst still, the fence which protected the birds from the worst of it has also been removed , prematurely in my opinion after the work has finished. I was told by SMBC that work would only be conducted up to this fence line. I was also told it was going  to be left there by parks management, only to go to the site and see it being removed by the contractors, who were scooping stuff back to reform the island.

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I stated my concerns about this to the council, but I get the impression that they could not care less, and are more concerned about how the fence and litter in the pool looks than the effect the material within this silt will have on the wildfowl. If deaths occur again now, after an absence of some considerable time, whereby the fence separated the birds from the worst contamination, then there will be only one party to blame for this.

AS A RESULT OF THE FENCE BEING REMOVED, I WOULD LIKE TO APPEAL TO THE PUBLIC TO PLEASE NOT FEED THE BIRDS IN THIS AREA BY THE INLET TO THE POOL, PARTICULARLY ANY SINKING SEED ETC. 

It now appears that some attempt is being made to cover the material dumped to land and on the island with hessian cloth- perhaps as a result of our monitoring concerns. As yet however, there is nothing in place to stop contamination coming into the pool, and now the flow has been increased, any such pollution will quickly wash right across it.

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Of course, the tree massacre around this pool had already been noted with it now resembling something like Hiroshima.

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But worse was to come, when I stumbled upon another operation going on at West Smethwick Park- again at the lakeside where all vegetation was being recklessly destroyed with chainsaws and chippers.

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We had had meetings with the council where we were told that if any works around pools were to be undertaken, we would be consulted first. Well this did not happen in this case, and hasn’t at other times either.  😥

I made a formal complaint and received the following from SMBC;

“The rationale for removing the scrub and small trees to the bank edge (whilst retaining the larger ones)  is to open up and restore the historic views from the footpath and adjacent areas into the Lake to restore the original open feel ‘Promenade’ of the past with a grass bank and views of the lake beneath the tree canopies 

Most of the trees and scrub on the bank at present are self set willows and poplars which if retained will totally overwhelm the lake edge and path, further obstruct views into the lake and eventually create a ‘dark corridor’.

These principles are clearly identified in the Planning submission ‘Design and Access Statement’  information.

Much of the vegetation on the bank has significantly grown since the bid was submitted and as a consequence requires more extensive clearance work of the less mature species whilst retaining the more valuable larger trees.  Additional planting of Extra heavy standard trees is also proposed to the larger gaps remaining to further enhance the ‘promenade’ effect.

Further works are planned for the pool and emptying of pool will be required to carry out this work. We intend to ensure that all work carried out has little or no impact to the wildlife of this site

We hope this resolves the current concerns.
 
 
Kind regards
Customer Feedback Team”
After a bit of digging , it appears that the heritage lottery design and access statement is buried in a 2017 planning application for the park, which does not specifically mention any pool works in the title.
DC/17/60435 | Proposed restoration and improvements of park and historic structures (Grade II Chance Memorial), Chance fountain, West Park Road and Victoria park entrances. Provision of lighting and CCTV, a two storey community pavilion with external events area, a new gym fitness area, improvements to existing MUGA (multi use games area). | West Smethwick Park West Park Road Smethwick
This scheme was approved on 3rd April 2017 and amended on May 18th of the same year with conditions, the principal one being that the scheme had to be commenced within three years- i.e by 3rd April/May 18th 2020. We are now of course in 2021, and I question whether the council are therefore in breach of their  own planning conditions, as I am not sure to what degree any work could have said to have been commenced by last year? 
And don’t anyone try to blame “the pandemic” for this when they don’t appear to have done anything substantial in the years 2017-2019.  :roll: 
The issues surrounding the proposed pool works are not a readily available public document, and nor is there knowledge of who exactly was consulted on these works. 
The statement about emptying the pool has come as another bombshell, and something else they didn’t tell us about. How can emptying the pool not have an adverse effect on both fish and wildlife? I have asked for timescales, and what this work is, and yet I have received no answers as of yet. Perhaps it is not so “clear” in the design and access statement as to what these are then?  😉 
It appears that the emptying of the pool is the top pool, which will again be desilted, re-landscaping will also take place between the two pools, with some ferns planted on the island. Click Links below. 
I have concerns, as do others that works that have taken place and have already been agreed in this scheme have had zero recent ecological input, and certainly not ours from a wildfowl welfare point of view. We are now in the bird nesting season, and will be seeking to delay any works commencing before September- and we will monitor and hold the council to that if they attempt to disturb any nesting birds. I have read such a statement within the submitted documents stating the bird nesting timescales and to avoid this time frame for the works, so “this is clear in the design and access statement”.
If that is a problem for the council’s timescales, then they should go through the correct legal channels and apply for a section 73 application to extend the time. They have had years to do the work, so do not try and cram this in citing short timescales. Lowering water levels at such a time should also be unthinkable. But this is Sandwell council we are dealing with here, and they appear to make it up as they go along……
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Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Smethwick Parks- latrines and tree massacres

Geese release FOI- official statement from “Natural” England

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Ever since this blog and campaign started 7 years ago, the subject of the “lawful” release of Canada Geese was at the heart of the issue, and how parks officers in Sandwell had lied about their murder. They were only caught out when having to explain in the public domain how they had been able to “break the law” in releasing them onto an RSPB  nature reserve when in fact their contractor had broken their necks on a farm.

I have gone into detail previously about  how The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981– a barbaric agricultural tool, was gestated by insidious European Union Directives.

European Member States are required to regulate the release of non-native species into the wild under the following provisions of The European Birds and Habitats Directives

: BIRDS DIRECTIVE OBLIGATION: Article 111 of the Birds Directive (79/409/EEC) requires Member States to ensure that introduction of non-native birds species into the wild does not prejudice the local flora and fauna.

HABITATS DIRECTIVE OBLIGATION: Article 22(b)2 of the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) requires Member States to ensure that deliberate introduction of non-native species into the wild is regulated, and if necessary prohibited, so as not to prejudice natural habitats or wild native flora and fauna.

The Article 11 and 22(b) regulatory obligations are met through the provisions of sections 14 and 16 of The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

This was principally to protect the financial interests of the vile militant French thugs who call themselves “farmers”, a brigade of onion smelling tractor pulling tossers, who at any opportunity set things on fire if they do not get their way. Even more barbaric than that are practices in the tax evasion money laundering non entity of Malta, where birds continue to be cruelly trapped. Other EU countries allow shooting of migrating birds, and little protection of their own “native” species. The European Union and its edicts have always looked the other way on such matters, so don’t anyone try to tell me otherwise in that our membership of this failed “union” has ever done anything to “protect” birds.

The ruddy duck in this country was slaughtered by the notion that it was “a non-native species”- again with full connections to The European ideals of state led slaughter. The agricultural and shooting lobby infest policy in Brussels, and also continue to do so in this country too.  😥

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With regard to releasing Canada geese in the UK, a resident of this country for over 400 years, as well as other species, rescue organisations, particularly the RSPCA, appear to be constrained by the Wildlife and Countryside Act with regards to what they do after capturing such birds, and if they can release them back into the wild if they need care or rehabilitation. Such avian eugenics is  morally wrong, and baseless in the claims that in doing so, releasing birds from an area that were already there, back into that same area is somehow going to have a negative impact on that area. The logic is nonsensical, and I have dealt with this issue in The Prejudiced Lie, which is the story of the 2013/14 cull in Sandwell and the issues arising from it.

The-prejudiced-lie.pdf (saveoursandwellcanadageese.org.uk)

As part of my investigation into Sandwell’s claimed release, I contacted Natural England at the time, in the knowledge that they had responsibility for the issuing of licences to release birds, and the fact that no one in Sandwell could produce any such licence from them.

An email from Tim Medlicott, wildlife advisor at Natural England dated  27th August 2014  gave the answer that I was looking for in terms of enforcement of legislation, and that Natural England have absolutely zero powers in this regard.

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An email from a Haney King, “Natural England’s lead wildlife adviser for the Sandwell area” dated 14th October 2014 stated the following.

With regard to an alleged release of Canada geese within a Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council park following roundup during moult earlier this summer; I understand this has been the subject of recent investigations by West Midlands Police.  Natural England has cooperated with these investigations and provided advice regarding general licensing and wildlife protection legislation.  As far as I am aware all investigations to date of the alleged event have determined that no offence has been proved, i.e. no Canada geese captured have been subsequently re-released.  As far as can be reliably established, a roundup and cull of Canada geese was undertaken by Pestex Ltd using permitted methods under the general license on behalf of Sandwell MBC on council property.”

They continued

“With regard to your suggestion that Sandwell MBC have plans to release non-native ornamental duck species within their parks, Natural England are providing advice to Sandwell MBC with an aim to ensure that they are aware of their obligations under Section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which prohibits the release into the wild without a licence of any animal of a kind which is not ordinarily resident in, and is not a regular visitor to, Great Britain in a wild state, or any species of animal listed in Schedule 9 to the Act, which includes Mandarin and Ruddy duck.”

NE reply

I also submitted a freedom of information request to Natural England in 2015 on the same subject. Their answer can be read HERE. 

“Regarding the release of so called “non native species”, can you similarly confirm that you are unable to prosecute any individuals for the illegal release of these species?”

“There is nothing to stop Natural England from prosecuting breaches of Section 14 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) which is the piece of legislation to which we believe you are referring. However, it is the Police Service that takes the lead in enforcing wildlife legislation in England that is not in relation to protected site or species Licence enforcement (except General Licences that we issue). For more information, please see: https://www.gov.uk/enforcement-laws-advice-on-protecting-the-natural-environment-inengland”

A further FOI request to Natural England requested what information they had given to SMBC as referred to , but they claimed they had no recorded written correspondence- well how convenient.

“Natural England have not engaged in any written communication with Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council on this matter.”

I doubt they provided any “advice” at all.

WHAT THE WILDLIFE AND COUNTRYSIDE ACT SECTION 14 STATES.

The interpretation of Natural England’s rules are set out in the Defra document below published in 2009/10. Birds appearing on schedule 9 appear to have done so by a process of discriminatory prejudice, and it is interesting to see that falconry is protected when I have both witnessed and reported such characters engage in the murder of “native” birds of the UK using “non-native” plastic penis attachments with a bell end attached. Not surprisingly, Natural England and the pigs look the other way to such matters.

wildlife-countryside-act

“With respect to the release of animals section 14(1) states: (1) Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person releases or allows to escape into the wild any animal which –

(a) is of a kind which is not ordinarily resident in and is not a regular visitor to Great Britain in a wild state; or

(b) is included in Part I of Schedule 9, he shall be guilty of an offence.

. ‘Animal’ refers to species belonging to the kingdom Animalia including, for example, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish, insects and other invertebrates.”

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COMMENT

Unfortunately, this law if following it to the letter means that animal and bird rescue organisations have to accommodate such birds for the rest of their lives, in unnatural confined conditions. Free wild birds effectively become caged prisoners under this legislation and policy. This puts financial pressure on such organisations and eventually means they are able to offer less and probably more restrictive care for other casualties. They are then therefore faced with the dilemma of whether putting down these birds in increasing numbers or keeping them to suit their best interests. Do their operations become wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, or “wildlife sanctuaries”, not much different from zoos, except the public do not pay to enter. It is a cull by the back door in such circumstances, not by necessity but because of bureaucratic pomposity and European Union discrimination.

In dealing with the RSPCA for many years, their officers on the field can be very cagey about such subjects, and members of the public are told by some that they will have to be put down, because of the law regarding “non-native” species, whilst others may bluff and state that they “have a licence to release the birds”. I have been given both statements, and so have others. One can see in such circumstances why trust , as was the case in Sandwell , is constrained.  But how true are these statements, and what rules guide licence release? I decided to ask for an official statement via the horses mouth of NE with another FOI request.

As well as asking them for official release policy and numbers allowed, I also threw in two other species, Black swan– originally Australian origin, and Egyptian Goose, originally a Southern African bird, but only declared “non-native” in 2009. These may be less numerous than Canada Geese in this country, but under NE policy, they would also require a licence to release.

Natural England provided me with the following xcel file for releases from 2020. They also gave the following explanation. 

“The protocol required under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as amended are as follows for Non-native release of certain birds:

Before the issue of a licence is recommended the following criteria must be satisfied:

• The release or reintroduction will have a neutral or beneficial impact on biodiversity and socioeconomic interests.

• In all cases, a disease risk assessment has been carried out and no significant disease concerns have been identified.

• If it is a designated site, the Area Team may be consulted.

In addition, consideration is given to the impact on the welfare of the individual animals involved, which must be certified as being fit and healthy before release. For welfare reasons, release is usually in the location where the birds were found, where practicable.

We can confirm Natural England have not issued licenses to (re) release Egyptian geese and black swans.

Please find attached spreadsheet for granted licences issued to (re) release Canada geese in 2020.

The number of Canada geese included on a licence are normally agreed with the applicant during the assessment, so we do not have a set minimum or Maximum number that is set. The RSPCA has an Organisational Licence for NNR (expires 2023).

What can affect numbers released is when release is undertaken during the winter months and bird flu control zones are in place, this would either prevent or restrict the numbers that can or might be restricted. If the licensee reaches licence limit, the licensee would contact Natural England to request an increase and this increase would be considered as part of the re assessment of the licence.”

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Canada goose release under licence 2020 Source Natural England.

No Egyptian swans or Black swans were licenced for release in 2020 according to this response.

  • In terms of the explanation, I would state that returning single or small numbers of Canada geese to the wild from the site from which they came will have “a neutral or beneficial impact on biodiversity and socioeconomic interests.”
  • How about the socioeconomic interests of the RSPCA and other wildlife rehabilitators Natural England, or do you only consider land owners?
  • Many of these  birds will be from urban park areas which can hardly be classed as “biodiverse” or even containing any form of habitat if you take a look of many of Sandwell’s parks for example, where silt and human excrement have killed wildlife.  :roll: These are management failures over many years, human problems and not those caused by scape goat birds. 

In terms of a disease risk assessment, why should these birds be unable to be released due to disease risk assessment, when “native” birds such as swans have no such impediment to release, despite being capable of carrying exactly the same pathogenic diseases? One notes recent cases of bird flu. The same can be said of their health and welfare, and this of course is down to the rescuer/rehabilitator under veterinary advice. This is not in itself a reason for not allowing this species to not be allowed to be returned from where it came, rather than on the individual circumstances of the bird itself. I would also add that people on the frontline of wildlife rescue are far more competent a judge of “welfare”  through years of experience of the blood and the shit that go with it in contrast with  some desk jockey at Natural England who has metaphorical “blood” on their hands for licenced executive slaughter by decree.

Specifically they state  “we do not have a set minimum or Maximum number that is set.” This statement therefore contradicts what I have been told by the RSPCA in one circumstance regards numbers. As does the statement “If the licensee reaches licence limit, the licensee would contact Natural England to request an increase and this increase would be considered as part of the re assessment of the licence.” 

I am therefore not sure if the RSPCA actually understand that they can request more on demand, or if they are merely prohibiting themselves from the burden of catering for more of the said species when a quick injection will be less economic a burden on them. I think it’s time that they came clean with the public on this issue. 

There is also the observation that how could any organisation possibly know how many birds they will have in in any given year, when one single event like a pollution incident involving dozens of birds from the same site impact their total release numbers in one “fowl swoop”. This system is totally flawed and unworkable in this regard.

Clearly , the other organisations mentioned in the figures are to be commended on releasing birds back to the wild, and having to jump through the useless bureaucratic hoops of an organisation that has no concern at all for the species in question, or even of course “native” ones like badgers that they have mercilessly persecuted through fake and flawed science over the past few years- again purely in the agricultural interest.

BUT THESE ORGANISATIONS SHOULD NOT HAVE TO APPLY FOR SUCH LICENCES WHERE SMALL NUMBERS ARE CONCERNED, AND THE LAW MUST BE CHANGED. IN THIS REGARD, I WILL BE CONTACTING THE SAID ORGANISATIONS WITH RESPECT TO CAMPAIGNING FOR REPEAL OF SECTION 14 OF THE WILDLIFE AND COUNTRYSIDE ACT AND SCHEDULE 9. THERE IS NO VALID REASON FOR ITS PURPOSE. NONE AT ALL. 

Personally, I do not care about breaking this law and am happy to do so. If it is Natural England’s or the Police’s policy of criminalising individuals who save wildlife and return it to where it came and prosecute them only because of fascist European Union Legislation which appears to be directly Nazi influenced, (possibly through political descendants of Nazi party members regards the German MEP’s who voted for the two directives at the time), then bring it fucking on. 

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No geese were released into the wild according to the WMP “investigation” by Sandwell council’s contractor in 2013. What’s good for the goose……

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Geese release FOI- official statement from “Natural” England

STW shaft Smethwick Hall Park and “broke” Sandwell council

The longstanding saga of this heavily raw sewage polluted pool and its incompetent management took a new twist last month which appears to throw a spanner in the works for Sandwell council’s theoretically  planned “remediation.”

For newcomers to this story, (where have ya bin?), in April of 2019 the pool was contaminated with raw sewage caused by Severn Trent Water’s poor monitoring of its assets which led to an unknown quantity of faecal matter entering the pool.

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An FOI request that this was one of several incidents over the years where pollution had occurred via the Severn Trent Water inlet to the pool and via their network. They are a region wide disgusting environmental polluter, and have been for many years as a private water company.

Sandwell council, who had failed to adequately manage this pool over many years, then made the disastrous decision to suddenly “care” in the spotlight of bad publicity, clearing out a trash screen, which this blog revealed through an FOI request had not been done for many months. This led to the “perfect storm” of conditions for an outbreak of botulism which caused devastation for birds at the pool, and likely the cause of mortality at two others in the area.

The only thing that stopped the sluice of deaths was our suggestion of erecting a fence to prevent the birds accessing the lower sediments and contamination in the Margaret Gardens end of the pool where the inlet comes in.

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We organised and handed in a petition with the help of the community park users of Smethwick, and an online petition to both Sandwell council and Severn Trent Water, even going to their headquarters in Coventry, where Sandwell Gooseman and co made their presence known.

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There were plans for improvements when as a result of this, we met with senior officers, Alan Caddick and councillors (Maria Crompton, now acting leader), as well as Severn Trent officers at the park. The two parties responsible for the mess also had private meetings. I cannot say what went on at these, yet we were assured that everything was in hand to make the situation right. STW were also investigating misconnections over a wide area, which also as far as I am concerned was their failure over many years to solve these issues, as another FOI revealed as to past pollution incidents. The scale of the silt in the pool, and the frequent contamination appear to have been causing issues at the site for many years, as already highlighted.

We were encouraged that STW had suggested to SMBC to put in a bid to their “community fund”, in fact this was suggested by CEO of this company Liv Garfield in her response letter to our petition.

From this, SMBC officers put in a bid for £250,000, the maximum, and a positive report was written and presented to cabinet, but this was bizarrely deferred by the now former leader, and I don’t really believe the explanation I was given as to why.

Fast forward to now and it has been revealed that STW have turned down the SMBC funding bid! What this means now for any project at this site is currently unknown, though a scaled back approach apparently will take place- details and discussion further on in this post.

Unfortunately and without explanation, SMBC prior to this announcement appear to have cut down trees on the islands at this site, and around the pool itself, whilst planting trees on Londonderry Lane at the fence line. Are they trying to hide what is going on from the roadside?

I made representations about this when I heard about the planned work, as a similar hatchet job had occurred at Victoria Park Tipton, where most of the willows and willow leaf bearing branches- the only natural food of birds at the park were removed, as well as the swans nest. But they went ahead with this anyway.

What this means is that the area that had previously been fenced off at Stony Lane is now open again from the air for birds to land in. There is virtually nothing stopping the geese flying over the tennis court net fence.

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hatchet job

 

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Indeed, sport it seems is what drives SMBC and the Commonwealth Games aquatics centre white elephant now looms behind where the treeline has vanished. No expense is apparently spared with this inflated money guzzling machine, yet the environmental issues at the site just around the corner remain submerged in doubt.

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As for Severn Trent Water , I always knew that they were full of shite. The PR exercise of meeting us at the site was just that, indeed their PR man  Adrian Fairburn is well acquainted with such endeavours. As for the operations manager Ross Stokes, I am baffled as to why he keeps putting “legally privileged” information on every email response that he gives to my questions.

I have to state, that I have not and will never sign any confidentiality agreement, and I am not bound by any laws preventing me reporting information which comes onto my radar.

Of the bid he stated

“legally privileged

I’m afraid the application was rejected this December by an independent panel, not Severn Trent.  (When we set up the scheme, we deliberately established an independent panel to make the final decisions on which projects are funded. It can be frustrating because we don’t have control, but we think it is the right thing overall.)

Nobody should have told you that the bid would succeed.  It is not in our power to make the decisions once the applications have gone to the customer panel.

I know how much work went into the bid, and how committed you are to what is an excellent scheme, and so I can imagine how you best feel.

I’m afraid the panel’s decision is final, but I can arrange for our funding officer to call you to provide feedback and discuss potential other routes, if that were helpful?

Meanwhile, we have approached the council to ask them about their plans for the park.”

To this I would state, that as I had nothing at all to do with this bid, and it was Sandwell council who put in for it, I know nothing of what was even involved with it, so there is no point me speaking to anyone else who is going to waste my time from Severn Trent Water PLC.

There are theoretical scenarios surrounding this bid and why it was rejected.

  1. The bid was no good and did not meet the criteria.
  2. Who are the members who make up this STW panel, and how are they appointed?
  3. When we know the answers to the first 2 questions, we may be able to deduce whether there is any political context to this, eg Tory councillors on the panel who don’t want to give anything to Labour shite areas like Sandwell, or for personal interests for funding their own pet projects in their own areas.

As for the the council, here is what Maria Crompton , acting leader had to say to me in response to this.

“Hi Ian

 Thank you for your email regarding the Severn Trent bid being turned down.  I am totally gutted – they encouraged us to enter this bid as they said we had a good chance of getting it.  I now feel it was to possibly deflect us from making a claim directly to them for their contribution to the contamination of the pool.

 I don’t quite know how we are going to get the work done on the pool but I am committed to doing everything we can.

Kind regards Maria”

Yes, I certainly do sense a “deflection”, if not a defecation. It appears from conversations that I have not been privy to, that SMBC and STW have had another meeting, and that SMBC intend now to only remove silt up to the first island of the pool, and the current barrier, and to partially remove some of this island which is allegedly allowing the silt to gather in this area. The crap, in every sense of the word will be left on site.

STW who have supposedly been checking on misconnections for the last year and a half will pass on details of things they found to SMBC for possible enforcement action, due to the current “pandemic”, which it is claimed has prevented STW from carrying out more work. They will apparently be meeting “more frequently” with regards to this pool and planned works.

It was stated to me that STW will be inserting some form of interceptor into the inlet into the pool, at their cost- which should have been done years ago as far as I am concerned.

The council stated that they do not have the money to progress the current scheme, without the STW money, though when questioned about this, the figures even with this bid do not appear to add up to the amount that it is now being stated that it would cost.

I have  serious concerns about this latest proposal, which I fully communicated to Maria Crompton and SMBC officers, as a partial job, and lowering the water levels and circulating silt known to have been previously contaminated with human excrement is not a good idea, unless it has been tested to determine current pathogens, and that it is also stopped from contaminating the larger area of water that will still have the silt in that part retained. I asked for stop planks to be put in place at the barrier, but am not hopeful that this will be followed.

Sometimes the best that can be done is potentially the worst, as happened when a mechanical long arm digger appeared in this site and caused the issues of death in 2019.

Council finances.

Though the council may claim to be broke having been turned down the £250,000 STW grant, the figures for carrying out this scheme combined with the employment of the two “waterbody technicians”, see below, don’t appear to have added up in any case, with a suggested shortfall. Certain SMBC produced statements however question just how broke the council really are, when there are large amounts of section 106 money, granted by housing developments apparently unspent and just resting in the council’s accounts for another year.

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Over £2 million has been sat on and is unspent.

Why , I would like to ask is this money not being spent, if this issue is so important to SMBC? Some of this money has been lying around for 8 years or more, and I think its time the developers, as well as would be politicians started to ask why it has not been spent?

As I have already highlighted, they had already set aside £342,000 for this project, which I believe also included the funding for the two posts in the water team- one of which has already been internally recruited. So how much of this was actually going to be spent on the Smethwick site itself? 

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A precedent has already been recently set for diverting money they had stashed for one scheme into another for the white elephant West Smethwick park centre. I think a question of priorities is needed when this is a public health, as well as environmental issue with what is known and has been proven to have contaminated a pool a quarter of a mile away!

“Waterbody technicians”

If you can “read and write”, which probably excludes many in Sandwell after 40+ years of failed governance, you might be in with a shout at this 37 hours per week job.

Waterbody Technician in Taylors Lane Depot, Oldbury B69 2BW – 86504 | WM Jobs

 

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There is one glaring concern I have about this job description, and that is the mention of pesticides and qualifications in using them, as this has nothing to do with water at all, and no pesticides should be being used near to water in any case. I specifically put in another FOI request to SMBC in 2016 about their use of the likes of the cancer causing Round-up , and they responded by stating the following.

(iii) Are pesticides/ chemicals used near children’s play areas, areas of open water or are there any areas where they are restricted from use- and for what reasons?

(iii) “Grounds Maintenance use chemicals around the fencelines of children’s play areas and do not use them near running water or brook courses to help to prevent glyphosate from getting into the water. Estate Services responded: The products have various usage restrictions, as per their product labels/licences etc, however applications on or near water (within 1m of the bank) requires permission from the Environment Agency. Sandwell Valley (Parks and Countryside) stated We aim to keep pesticide use to a minimum at Sandwell Valley Country Park as well as the Local Nature Reserves that we manage. We aim to restrict our applications to the edges of footpaths, in order to prevent grass encroachment into the substrate of paths which will detrimentally affect them. We do not spray near water.”
(iv) Are they employed for use in any of Sandwell’s judged Green flag
parks?

(iv) We do not use chemicals in our Green Flag Parks unless in exceptional circumstances.

Does the pesticide qualification therefore mean that the two staff will also be being diverted to undertake other grounds maintenance duties as required, as that sounds like a diversion from the stated job description?

WT2

 

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Specifically excluded from this job however should be doing any foreigners in people’s private gardens within the parks, whomever they claim to be or used to work for. :mrgreen: It has unfortunately been known that some lawns have been mowed by grounds maintenance staff that are not in public ownership and during works time. As a taxpayer, I do not pay for such a service to be given to a privileged few!  :roll:  

 

Replanting

I am informed that SMBC will be endeavouring to put back some island veg at our request, though I am not entirely sure as to the species. Though I am no arboriculturist, I make some suggestions below, which may be best befitting for the islands in question. Certain (former?) individuals that have disgraced the parks department at this council in the past are best known for being responsible for injuring people at firework displays, lying and making threats, stealing tractors and plants, selling off goal posts and shipping containers for scrap via third parties,  memory loss and changing statements at what they said during under caution investigations, as well as senior officers allegedly, (several sources confirming), having extra marital activities with subordinates. And a reliable source even tells me that a certain gentleman with a background in horticulture, even used to trim the bush of a lady councillor! One might say that preferment on the park casting bench at SMBC appears to go by the letter and not by the law! What an “outrageous profanity”!

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Incidentally, the hiring of bikes and keepy-uppy volleyball competitions took place down the valley.

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Let’s get Sandwell planting this Spring!

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MAKE THE POLLUTER PAY!!!!!

2020 was without doubt the worst year for pollution incidents affecting waterways and wildfowl in the West Midlands area that I have ever known in nearly 25 years of rescue.

It ended with two appalling incidents, on the Titford canal in Oldbury, and at The Bumble Hole Nature Reserve in Dudley. The former has yet to be fully dealt with and both required many hours of volunteer work over the Christmas and New Year period when everyone else that should have dealt with it had gone off.

Financially, we spent around £100 of our own booms and pads at Titford, which we have had to buy as a result of the slow action shown in other incidents earlier in the year. This is obviously not going to be recovered, but I have approached the CRT asking them if they can do this, given that we were effectively doing the work of their employees over Christmas, as well as rescuing the birds. Baz from Scared Animal Wildlife Rescue deserves special mention for his time and indefatigable work.

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Many people have asked about making a donation about the response to this incident, and although he doesn’t like asking for any, I am giving the link  if anyone would like to donate to replace the booms and pads please follow the link  HERE.  

In the case of Titford pools, we know who the polluter was, and I will name and shame them here as

 

GAYDEN TRANSPORT of LANGLEY GREEN ROAD B69 4TG  .

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The canal and Rivers Trust took pictures of the spill from containers in their yard, which backs directly onto the canal near to Uncle Bens Bridge, a yard from where the spill clearly emanated from. The pollution went all the way along the canal and underneath the motorway and pools which are in the ownership of Sandwell council.

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I was shown the pictures and apparently this firm claimed to be unaware of the spill until it was pointed out to them, which had obviously taken place over a period of several days. I have however now been informed by the CRT that they had recently visited this site prior to this pollution incident in relation to this exact same problem, due to complaints from local residents about the pollution coming out of this business.  I understand that they will be visited again, but let us hope that more than a verbal warning is given here, as obviously their management did not give a shit about previous warnings given what happened over Christmas. WE NEED MORE THAN WORDS HERE, WE NEED FINES AND CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS THROUGH THE COURTS. 

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A sea of oil on the Titford canal

 

In the case of the Bumble Hole, I firmly believe the culprit who spilt the diesel to be a firm based on a trading estate in Netherton. Be in no doubt, and this goes to anyone else in this area who handles red diesel, your businesses are being watched, and will be reported now for any transgressions however minor. I would like, and will aim to put the business responsible for this incident out of business by whatever means. It affected over 30 birds, some of which have died as a result of these cowboy arseholes. 

I have written to my MP Nicola Richards with regard to these latest problems caused by rogue businesses, and the Environment Agency’s abysmal “Common Incident Classification Scheme” which has once again so far failed to act or prosecute the polluter largely due to it ignoring issues related to birds being affected by pollution events such as these. The attendance or not of the environment agency is based upon this flawed reporting system, by telephonists who cannot see the issue themselves, but are prompted by answers given to them by the callers on a checklist.

I have given more info on this scheme in a post link in this communication, but in summary it reads as

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birds covered in oil are not regarded as being involved in a “serious” or “significant ” impact in this scheme, even though they most certainly are, which is totally wrong!

Dear Nicola,

I would be grateful if you could raise this matter with the appropriate channels.
As I am sure that you are aware with previous correspondence, and also press reports, there have been an unacceptable number of pollution incidents within the last year involving industrial releases of diesel and similar hydrocarbons into water courses. This has resulted in near impossible difficulties for wildfowl, which along with the RSPCA, we have had to rescue, wash and rehabilitate.

We have spent a great deal of money on booms and pads. Incidents dealt with at sites within the last year are
#Hydes Road pool, Wednesbury
#Sheepwash nature reserve and River Tame as far as Perry Barr
#Park head locks, Dudley
#Smethwick Hall Park, (as well as the ongoing sewage issue)
#Titford pools

and the latest, as I am sure you are aware at The Bumble Hole.

In the majority of these cases, the EA have been notable by their absence. Dudley council now appear to have the task of paying for clean up of Bumble Hole, which as with the rest of these incidents come through the private water company hands of Severn Trent. My views on the environmental performance of this company, and total failures, are well known, but I think the EA performance now has to be taken up with Government Ministers, as they are failing woefully to address the issues.
The worst part is that their classification system, The Common Incident Classification scheme is not fit for purpose. This classifies incidents according to fish distress and deaths, and never anything else. We have had incidents as above where we have had to catch over 40 birds covered in oil, yet the EA derisively class this as 3 on their pathetic scale. If some fish had died it would have been level 1. They only attend incidents at category 2 and above, and therefore call either Severn Trent or the CRT to deal with anything else.
I would like you to take up this matter with a view to you and your colleagues attempting to reform this classification scheme into it bearing in mind the impact on wild water birds, which it currently is not.
I have detailed some of the issues I am talking about in the following blog posts.

Environment Agency responses | What Lies Beneath Rattlechain Lagoon?

Diesel everywhere! | Save Our Sandwell Canada Geese
There need to be far tougher fines imposed on rogue companies, and jail sentences for directors of these failing companies.

It is perhaps also important that local authorities have specialist equipment on standby to deploy in these situations, as has probably been learnt at Dudley with the latest incident. We have to stop these incidents becoming as frequent as they are, and part of this is the way in which they are dealt with theoretically as well as practically after they happen.

Regards and Happy New Year,
Ian Carroll swanwatch

Reply so far……

“Dear Mr Carroll,

Thank you for getting in touch with me about this important issue, and I hope you had a happy Christmas and New Year.

I will write to DEFRA to ask ministers whether they have any plans to reconsider the Common Incident Classification system to encompass the incidents which you describe and we can take our enquiries from there. I will let you know when I have received a reply. 

I note as well that my enquiry to the Environment agency regarding the water levels in the lake at Brookvale Park has not yet been replied to. I have written once again to the EA as a follow up to ensure this matter is investigated.

If there’s any other issue I can be of help with, please go get in touch and I will do all I can to be of assistance. 

Kind regards,

Nicola Richards MP
Member of Parliament for West Bromwich East

I do hope that a positive response from Defra will be forthcoming, but on previous experience, I am not holding my breath. My advice to people reporting such incidents currently if you care about birds is to state that there are some dead fish in the water, even if there are not.  😉 

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Severn Trent Water “improving” – yet fined over £1m for pollution in the last year- Wat-er load of crap!

As we continue to see total apathy from Sandwell council regards taking action about the problems involving serious water pollution in its pools via Seven Trent Water’s failed monitoring and abilities to prevent this, it appears that those at the helm in Oldbury are content to splash the cash on another white elephant statement building to be built in West Smethwick park. A report presented to cabinet states that  “the sum of £581,000 currently in the capital programme and a sum of £92,777 of existing Section 106 monies be allocated for the use of West Smethwick Park DC/12/55069 & DC/08/49405 to fund the increased capital cost of the development of the new pavilion, landscape improvements and heritage works at West Smethwick Park. “

11 – West Smethwick Park – Heritage Lottery Funded Restoration Project

Incredible how they can find this money for yet another hair brained scheme, like the aquatics centre’s costs which just continue to swallow money and leave the tax payer in at the deep end.

The shite jacuzzi a stones throw away in Londonderry Lane aka “SHP” however continues to be a monument to inaction, and personally I don’t believe that anything will be done here, even though , for the moment, it remains in the council’s published revised budget for 2020/21.

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£342,000- show us the money!

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Still waiting for an answer……

Another absolute disgrace are the Environment Agency’s latest assessments of the performance of water companies for 2019.

Last years published 2018  EA report into water company performance revealed that Severn Trent had been docked a star from their rating by the EA- from 4 to 3.

Dave Throup, EA manager for H/W said in a tweet

“Generally woeful environmental performance by English water companies during 2018 highlighted in our annual report. Our local company @stwater performance has deteriorated and it failed to meet targets on discharges or ceilings on pollutions.”

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Severn Trent had 287 confirmed pollution incidents in 2018, but how many went unreported because of the open to fraud self reporting system?

THE FULL EA 2018 REPORT CAN BE READ HERE. 

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Open to total serious fraud

I put in an FOI request to obtain the 2019 report, and have to say, as I will explain, the figures for this are dubious to the point where the Environment Agency’s method of calculation appears to be another fraud, and disingenuous of water company performance, because of the way in which they are only compiling figures for what they term “Category 1″ and “Category 2″ events.

I have outlined this abysmal common incident classification system in this post, but basically it means that where fish are reported to have died following a pollution incident, this gets a prompt EA and higher response. But in incidents such as the sewage pollution carnage and subsequent bird deaths at Smethwick Hall Park last year, caused by Severn Trent Water’s incompetence,  this incident was only recorded as a “category 3” , meaning that fines and a prosecution would not be pursued by the environment agency! As I have said before, and will again, the EA’s “environment” is one of fish economy, and any other form of wildlife , particularly water fowl, are worth nothing to them. 

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The deaths of over 50 birds and continuing at this site was NOT a “minor” fucking impact, you dickheads!

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The iconic picture of Severn Trent Water’s sewage pollution impact at Smethwick Hall Park in 2019

It is important to understand this flawed system in light of the bullshit and subsequent comments made about Severn Trent water’s apparent “improvement” in the EA table for 2019- a complete fraud.

In the FOI request, the EA had not published the report for 2019 at the time, but just days later it came out, and can be read HERE.

The table below shows this company have gone back up to 4 stars.  👿 How that is possible, I do not know.

2019

 

“Last year’s report made clear that performance was unacceptable across the sector, this report shows performance deteriorated for the second year in a row. This comes soon after England’s shocking water classification results showed just 16% of water bodies meet the criteria for Good Ecological Status against 25 Year Environment Plan’s target of 75%.” 

Obviously the Environment agency are winning here then.  😆

As for the comments of the Chair of the EA Emma Howard Boyd holding up this serial Midlands polluter as one of good practice, I can only say Luv, you are living in bloody cloud cuckoo land if you think they they are an example of “industry leaders” and need to get out more in this area to see for yourself sites like Smethwick Hall park and what has not happened there from last year, because it does not say very much about the privatised water industry when you hold them up as the stars FFS!

Not mentioned conveniently in this report are the fines that were dished out in the last year, and this is where it gets very interesting regards Severn Trent Water, and in contrast the absolute joke of how this relates to their “improved” performance.

I would suggest anyone interested in environmental matters reads the ENDS report , which gives an excellent fines and prosecutions monitor of water companies and others causing pollution incidents. You can sign up for a free 2 week trial here. 

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Oh look which water company comes TOP OF THE SLOPS!

What can be seen here, is that in June, Severn Trent were given two fines of £400,000 plus costs for allowing 3.8 million litres of sewage from a treatment works near Shrewsbury to be discharged into a stream for a year and a half.

The full report even appears on the .GOV website as an EA boast! 

The EA officer is quoted as saying

“Water companies are aware that their activities have the potential for serious environmental impacts, and they know that we will take appropriate action when they cause pollution.”

Yeah sure, so long as it involves fish! It is interesting to note in the Shrewsbury case that STW had been unaware of a longstanding failure of monitoring and serious length of discharge, and this reminds me of the failures at Smethwick Hall Park, where it is quite apparent from NIRS reports, that the issues of sewage entering this pool had been going on for a long time as well before it was dealt with- and only it appears AFTER the EA had been there themselves.

It is important however to report pollution incidents regarding water companies promptly and to the EA first, as the eagle eyed dog walker had in the case above, as at least this will screw over the water companies performance of “self reporting” and lower this statistic.  😉

But there’s more, because Severn Trent were also penalised with other past pollution offences last year. Another ENDS report article reveals

“Severn Trent Water agreed four undertakings, totalling more than £359,000. All were for failing to meet permit conditions, contrary to regulation 38(2) of the Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations 2016, and again related to incidents at sewage treatment works. £158,000 went to the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, £100,000 to the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust. £60,892 to the Severn Rivers Trust. £40,500 to the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.”

These so called “Environmental undertakings” are explained in the forward of the 2019 EA report as

“An EU is a voluntary agreement offered by those who have committed a less serious offence that becomes legally binding once accepted. It funds local environmental improvements but also requires that steps are taken to put right what went wrong and to prevent it happening again.”

I have to say that I find these a complete joke, as do I the receiving top table charities who appear to benefit, and I would ask:

HOW ARE THESE CHOSEN, AND WHY SHOULD THEY BE WELL KNOWN AND ESTABLISHED AND WELL FUNDED ORGANISATIONS WITH A LARGE NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES LIKE THE WILDLIFE TRUSTS?  

How do the beneficiaries of these payments manage to get to that position? I would also comment that they do nothing to care for, rescue or rehabilitate water birds that suffer as a consequence of sewage contamination, such as that seen at Smethwick last year.

The wildlife trusts do not rescue or rehabilitate ill wildfowl that have been poisoned by these shite merchants , and nor do they clean up the mess. What exactly has any of this money gone towards for the criminality of private water companies; admin costs or self promotion, as appears to be the case with most large charities?

I think the EA seriously need to look at giving smaller organisations such as The Linjoy wildlife sanctuary , who have cared for and rehabilitated birds made ill through Severn Trent Water’s actions some cash, because I am sure as one drop of water follows another that there will be more cases to come due to the unresolved issues in this part of the world.

Only a couple of months ago, another Severn Trent water failure in Walsall lead to the deaths of several hundred fish at Barnes Lane Pool– so I guess they will not get away with that one 😉 .

It was quite apparent that the contraption shown below had overloaded and spewed out unmentionables which then headed for the pool. Visible evidence was left behind, despite Severn Trent’s clean up guys trying to remain tight lipped about what had happened.

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Several pumps were put in the water, but by now, most of the fish were already dead.

I had to chase another related incident, earlier this year, concerning the Nature Reserve at Stubbers Green through an FOI where the EA had originally appeared to try to cover this up with a pretty vague response, as did Walsall council unfortunately with a “blocked inlet” story revised to “vandalism of a sewer pipe”. I think the story about “vandalism” is highly dubious to say the least, though it is clear to see once again sewage pollution from a Severn Trent Water asset killed fish in this “category 1” incident. . The final EA NIRS report can be read HERE. 

This incident was also caused by pollution into Barnes Lane pool, and I have no doubt via the same source.

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This is therefore further evidence that the apparent “improvement” by this water company is nothing of the sort, and that statements made by the head of the Environment Agency  are totally false and a fabrication of the truth. It is also correct to point out that the fines themselves are chicken feed to companies like STW, especially when they are also actively selling off pieces of land formerly in public ownership for housing schemes, which will no doubt ultimately deliver more “misconnections” to contaminate the environment. Bear in mind the salary of CEO Liv Garfield is reportedly over £2M per annum. 

The privatised water industry is not delivering good environmental performance, and the victims of its actions and incompetence get no reimbursement from a regulator that is supposed to enforce the law. It’s time for a major overhaul of the Common Incident Classification Scheme, as we can clearly see it is protecting only the serial environmental polluters like Severn Trent Water PLC. 

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Smethwick Parks update- Sandwell council’s changing statements

Back in August, I gave an update on what little was happening about the situation with the contaminated pools in Smethwick. Essentially this is Victoria park and Smethwick Hall park. The latter of course we know to be contaminated with raw sewage, and that in essence is the cause of the problems related to ill and dead birds which unfolded there. The further pollution incident involving diesel/oil of some sort that largely was dealt with by volunteers was not traced.

Victoria Park on the other hand has remained a concern for the last two years, and we appear to be no nearer finding the root cause.

It is however fair to point out that I am now aware that this pool is fed by The Thimblemill brook, and that on August 10th, a pollution incident was reported by volunteers to both Severn Trent and The Environment Agency- reference number 183 5767 grid ref SP00559 86467 nearest post code B67 5PB.   Apparently this was grey misconnection type issues, but this was just the observation made by the volunteers at the time.

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We recorded ill and dead birds at this park a few weeks  later, following heavy downpours which presumably washed the issue through into here. The outlet from this park appeared to be also blocked, and the pool has also been laced with duckweed for some months.

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Some of the birds received treatment at Linjoy wildlife sanctuary and made a full recovery, but only as a result of timely action in identifying and rescuing them.

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A goose on Victoria Park with suspected botulism

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Added to this, I undertook a basic ammonia test on water at this lake at the inlet to the pool, taking two tests which showed exactly the same result of high levels of ammonia. Of course, this would have been higher in the submerged sediment, which of course the birds are feeding on.

Video of this real time test is shown by clicking this link.

It is apparent from this photo of a swan which we caught at this lake in February, which sadly died and was suffering from the effects of botulism, that ammonia scalding was present on the tongue of this bird, and I had also seen it bottom feeding in this general area where the water levels are fairly low.

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I again contacted a range of officers in SMBC, including the current acting leader of the council, Maria Crompton as to what was going on. I asked for a set of things to happen, some of which I have been chasing for over a year, such as removal of vegetation in the water which is identified as a source of botulism production in the APHA guidance literature, which SMBC have seen many times, and have even referred to me!

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I had to chase this response, and this is what I received from Alan Caddick, “Director Housing and Communities.”

“Dear Mr Carroll

Firstly, thank you for highlighting these issues with us and thank you for the work that you and your volunteers do to protect and care for birds in Sandwell. Cllr Crompton is very supportive of the work you do and is keen for us to work together with you.

Below, I have responded to your issues and whilst you asked that things were done within two weeks, much of it wouldn’t have been possible to do in that timeframe. What we need is a long-term approach to the issues you have raised, here and on all our water courses, and I would like to work with you and your volunteers to put a plan together that allows us to put solutions in place that help to prevent birds becoming ill or dying. If you are up for meeting with me and officers we can discuss issues and start to develop a plan which we can then monitor on an on-going basis. I believe that this will enable us to be more preventative and proactive in our approach and less reactive, which is very much the case now.

Also, in a separate email you mention the damage caused by anglers and rather than treating this issue separately I would like to include it the plan referred to above, so that we have one plan for everything. I think this would make more sense, but happy to get your views on this.

Unfortunately, I will be away from work for the next few weeks, but if you can liaise with Jayne Weaver we can get something in place for when I am back; or you could meet with Jayne and others in my absence. By working together I think we can improve our approach, which will benefit the bird population in the borough. Having a healthy and thriving bird population is something we all want to see.

Regards Alan

Alan Caddick

Director Housing and Communities”

To this I would state that a plan was supposedly already in place before apparently being derailed by the now thankfully, ex leader of Sandwell council where the matter of approval for a decent report was deferred. I am still none the wiser what the plan is with this now.

I am not sure what “long term approach means”, but we don’t need this, we need a short term set of actions to prevent another year of problems that will undoubtedly resume at some point unless things are drastically altered. This is just another stalling tactic, and I do not see another meeting achieving anything when there have already been meetings that have resulted in little.

The issues concerning angling, are separate completely to this issue, except regards bad management of it in parks, and I do not believe that linking the two are helpful. I have still to get any formal response from the acting leader of this council to the lockdown litter campaign, that was sent in July!

This is the rest of the response regards the action plan that I set out below- no meeting needed.

I would therefore ask that the following is implemented within the next two weeks, but fear that this will be too late to save the many birds who will perish.

 

  1. Remove the dead trees and branches in the pool and attempt to remove the duckweed.The arboricultural team have arranged meetings with all of the council’s appointed tree contractors to evaluate the work required. Once the quotes have been received the order will be placed, with the priority being aimed at the Smethwick Parks. The most effective way of reducing duckweed is by aeration, unfortunately at this site the introduction of aerators at this moment in time could disturb the silt accelerating the botulism. The removal of duckweed by hand at this site will only be a temporary measure and would be very time consuming and costly.                                                                                                                                                                                                     COMMENT   Once again we are back to the stalling tactic of quotes, waiting for them to come back  and no action being taken to address the issue. I am sick of this, it’s all the council appear to say, and nothing gets any further.                                                                                                                                                                     
  2. Remove the litter in the lake.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This will be done and we will be using the contractors who have recently assisted with the clearance at Smethwick Hall Park.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   COMMENT    On posting a facebook post about the appalling latest situation with birds at the park, and the unkept appearance of litter in the water, a number of local residents pledged to get together to clean it up themselves. One of these approached the council and alleges that he was “warned off” doing it.  Where as I  cannot verify this, it was apparent that two council workers , one of them from drainage were sent out pretty quick to do what Serco et al should have been doing for the last several months following the social media shaming, and after several councillors were contacted. How difficult is it to remove litter by opening a gate and walking around the edge of the pool? I am not sure as to why the contractors concerned with the clear up at Smethwick Hall park cannot remove the tree debris as described above?                                                                                                                                                                            
  3. Give us a key to open the padlock to the pool gate.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    We will arrange for a key to be supplied                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     COMMENT  The council appear to have changed the lock, and I have a type of key which opens it.                                                                                                                                                          
  4.  Acquire a water testing/laboratory company to test the water and sediment at this lake to determine the conditions that are present and pathogens present. I still believe that this lake’s issues arise from the adjacent housing development on the old college, as it was never producing outbreaks like this, even in hot summers where the lake had dropped due to the collapsed drain. We only found out confirmation of human excrement present at Smethwick Hall park when the EA tested these parameters.We will ask the Environment Agency to carry out tests on our behalf.                                                                                                                                                                                                 COMMENT   It is apparent from the results I took myself, that this pool has water and likely sediment which contains elevated levels of ammonia. I think it very unlikely that the EA would carry out tests at this pool when it contains no  fish. I have had this conversation with them before. Once again, the council could procure a company or a laboratory to undertake testing, on all its pools, but this would again no doubt result in the same “getting quotes and waiting for them to come back in” drivel that I have now become accustomed to in this saga.    I also sent an email to the director of public health in Sandwell Lisa Mcnally asking if she knew of any possibilities of testing , especially given the covid-19 links with detecting it in sewage , but I have not even had the courtesy of a reply.                                                                                                        
  5. Seal off the feeding area with fencing to prevent feeding in this area. Put up more signs asking people to not feed the birds for the reasons of preventing bird illness. Attempt to cleanse or cover with fresh gravel, the area where feeding has occurred to potentially break the link with any harmful bacteria present that the birds could be ingesting from submerged food. Sometimes I have seen pure mould thrown into this area!                                                                                                                                                                                        We will consider options about the best way to deal with this and look at the merits of putting up signs. Work needs to be done to educate people and for them to understand that what could be an act of kindness in providing food could make the birds ill or could kill them. We would like to work together with you on this and identify solutions jointly.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  COMMENT      More time wasting, what options? This area is regularly plastered in food which is not appropriate for wild birds, and is mouldy.                                                                                                                                                              
  6. Consider the potential of filling in this lake and what is required to do this. We are in agreement with this proposal, however this needs to be designed by professionals in this field. There is also the issue of the 2m brick built sewer that runs under the pool and has collapsed a couple of times that would need protection from machinery. We will do some work on this and get some costs.

COMMENT I am not in favour of filling in the pool at all, but the lack of any action by this council to determine what the issues are make it a certainty that this cyclical issue will continue unless it is broken. We cannot allow more birds to be lured to their deaths every year because a council fail to act. 

I also copied in my MP Nicola Richards about this issue, and she sent me the following response from SMBC CEO David Stevens. As can be seen here, his very brief responses appear to differ from the statements made earlier by Mr Caddick, so who in fact was briefing him?

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I am not sure why it is unsafe to pick litter around a lake, or that is within easy reach. I am not sure why Mr Stevens states that keys cannot be issued at this time, when Alan Caddick said that they could. The idea that we should contact parks officers who would probably not even be there, and not able to send anyone out in a “timely manner”, means that this statement is ridiculous. “Convenient times” are not something that ever occurs with wildlife rescue.

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I am not sure how further forward we are when they keep “looking into” these measures, instead of acting and actually doing something.

Added to this, Chris Adams also contacted her MP Shaun Bailey about the matter, and once again Mr Stevens from the council responded, but here is the story he gave to Mr Bailey.

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I can only state that we have been removing dead and ill birds from the lakes, and NOT Serco or Sandwell council. For some reason, the council appear to have suddenly stopped using the boat they were using, and the people who were using it. Obviously this is a management decision, and has meant that we have had to do the council’s work, as well as that of the Environment Agency I would add.

The statement about improvements at the parks are a lie. No action has been taken at Victoria park, and none at Smethwick Hall park. Obviously the issues have not reduced, given the spate that prompted mine and Chris’s letters. 

The issues are not “rectified in a timely manner”– as the string of delays which Alan Caddick mentions to the action points which I asked them to take prove.

This “pandemic” has once again forced volunteers to take action, and with the ridiculous and unnecessary lockdown, forged out of falsified data, we once again have a situation where we will have to act where others whose job it is don’t. I think that the public sector love working from home, and manufactured crises, where they can pretend they care, whilst also pleading poverty like Oliver’s at the workhouse table. I don’t really see what work the council are doing at the moment, or councillors come to that. Time for a pay cut I think , to reflect the easing workload.

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