Lockdown litter



I have seen some articles early on in the Covid  shenanigans which spoke of how animals were “reclaiming streets” and how the so called “lockdown” would benefit nature. These people must live in cloud cuckoo land, and I have only seen evidence to the contrary.

Along canal towpaths, and in parks people have multiplied like never before, threatening habitat, allowing dogs to run amok and of course leaving behind piles and piles of litter.

It is this last point which is now becoming intolerable and directly harming wildlife. The biggest source of threat to wildfowl remains discarded fishing line and associated rubbish. Some people continue to ignore local guidance and respect for the environment, and unfortunately local authorities continue to fail to put a stop to anti social behaviour that this “sport” appears to be symbiotic with.






Not only do we get the fishing line dumped idly behind in bushes, but the snacks, and of course the empty booze cans and accompanying packs of 4 and 6 which cause issues for ducks like this in West Bromwich.


These plastic tags are a real menace, yet there are biodegradable alternatives being suggested, which all environmental groups, rescuers and wildlife enthusiasts need to lobby their MP about to ban the drink industry in the UK from continuing to kill and maim our wildlife with their cheap plastic shit.

There is no question that free fishing on pools lies behind the problems of this anti social menace , as it is quite apparent that responsible anglers and match anglers do clear up their rubbish with the threat of being removed if they fail to do so. Local authorities have got into the habit of failing to challenge unacceptable behaviour on their own site assets. No one would allow drinking in libraries or tolerate rubbish being thrown on tennis courts, so why do they fail to stop this around their pools where nature lives?

Every year, I like many other rescuers have to spend a great deal of time trying to help these casualties after I have done my own job, and many have to be taken to a rescue centre or vets to recover, at the expense of the rescue and those transporting them. All this as a result of careless action or ill conceived bad angling practice.

That is why we will be writing to all the leaders of the four black country boroughs asking them to join our campaign to end free fishing on its pools, ban all night fishing,  and start to deal robustly with the issues surrounding this lethal litter. Education campaigns are clearly not alone going to stop this habit , and enforcement must start to be practiced.

It is interesting to note that children can perhaps be our educators, like the notice I saw below on a pool in Dudley. Last week I had to catch the male swan on this pool which had a 2cm hook in his beak and line attached, making feeding almost impossible.

If a nine year old girl knows the difference between right and wrong, perhaps those in authority should start to show some responsibility to helping others like her bring about positive change, instead of siding with the drunken idiot jobless who spoil it for the many. It is a question of sides, and it’s time the leaders showed which one they are on. 

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Brookvale park and botulism- a summary PDF

I have produced a bit of lighter reading for those who do want to follow the long forensic previous post about this situation. Relevant evidential links are supplied within the document for clarity.

Brookvale Park and botulism

Please note the APHA guidance at page 2 concerning situations like this notes

“Treatment regimes, including careful oral administration of warm water to flush toxin from the gastro-intestinal tract in early cases, and nursing can be effective.”



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“There’s nothing meaningful to be done”- Birmingham’s troubled parks- an investigation


Though I have frequently had run ins with Sandwell MBC regards birds in parks,  Birmingham City Council- the largest of local authorities has a very dubious track record on wildfowl and their welfare in its own. I have previously outlined how two ridiculous specimens wanted to cull geese in one Birmingham park with inflated claims. I have also set out how BCC park officers assisted the wildlife murderers at FERA with killing ruddy ducks at Witton Lakes.

I don’t like Birmingham City council and its parks department. Not only as a result of the issues highlighted here, but as a consequence of several years ago, when I along with others was targeted by them for actually daring to care. I noted that several birds on two of their lakes were becoming lead poisoned and needed help. Some park officers connected with ringing birds, and one odious “lord of the rings” individual who lives  in Tamworth, thought they knew better, and attempted to smear myself that the birds were not ill and that I had “cleared a whole lake of swans”. This individual even went to other sites and asked one ranger at Chasewater; “has that little bastard been here again?”  whilst repeating the lie obviously given him by those officers at Birmingham City Council.

The background to lead poisoning in swans, symptoms and occurence can be read in the PDF below written by a former MAFF veterinary pathologist, who attended National swan convention conferences, as I did, around this very same time. The Birmingham Parks were well known as “a lead poisoning blackspot” with frequent records of admissions to wildlife rescue centres- the vain staff in this department may not like that , but it is a fact based on the results of scientific tests.


Even further and more bizarrely at the same time, certain same individuals within BCC libelled me in suggesting that I had been releasing birds from out of the area at Sutton Park, (without any proof), on the basis that a few were turning up with colour leg rings from outside of the area. Notwithstanding the fact that I don’t drive, and live many miles away from this site, these plankton appear to have failed to recognise that birds have wings, and also that the RSPCA release birds from their Stapeley Grange wildlife centre  in Cheshire, which covers  a vast area, to a site around 7-8  miles away from Sutton Park as the crow flies.

Every single bird taken off these lakes were confirmed to have elevated blood lead levels and required treatment, by independent academic testing at Keele university in a scheme paid for by The Environment Agency, with many not making it. BCC were sent these results by Wychbold Swan Rescue, but the stuck up jobsworth pomposity of these desk jockey’s was well remembered, especially when they even cosied up to the police in a desperate attempt to discredit me, but were forced to make an apology- as shown below- though this wasn’t made to myself personally.

Apology not accepted

Though the number of lead poisoned birds has declined at the pool since this time, there have from time to time been some noted to be showing the same symptoms which have required rescue- especially when the water levels have fallen sharply- and thus given greater access to shallow sediments in the lake. This will become a regular observation in this post.


The numerous issues concerning SMBC’S  disastrous managed pools in Smethwick/”botulism” and related Severn Trent water sewage pollution are noted. I have looked at botulism, its causes and effects in this post. 

But issues of a similar nature have occurred and are reoccurring again in Birmingham, with the approach taken by this local authority mirroring the complacency and apathy that they showed with the lead poisoning situation at the very same site. Further more , it appears that certain actions which have been taken at this park, and at the knowledge of BCC have directly led to the occurrence of illness at the site, but the admission of this and failure to remove carcasses at the lake by BCC have not been.

I put them in the public domain in this post, because the illness and deaths of wildfowl at this badly managed lake are inextricably linked to the fluctuating water levels and increased access to contaminated sediment for bottom feeding birds, disturbed by water pumping operations in combination with festering dead birds and tree debris which act as an energy source for botulism.

In chronological order here is what appears to have happened at Brookvale Park in Erdington. Though illness with lead poisoning has been shown repeatedly at this lake, through lead shot discarded by anglers, the botulism situation had never occurred at this lake in the 22 years that I have been visiting there almost every week. That was until around July/August 2018- a very hot period of weather.

It is clear that some public facebook postings from this date showed that West Midlands fire service had attended the site and had “oxygenated the water”. It is not clear if BCC or any of their employees had formerly requested them to do so, yet this posting appears to suggest that one had.


31st July 2018

There was no valid reason for “oxygenating” the water, no fish were in distress at this time, and nor did the lake require it.  In fact this action would have disturbed the silt at a time when the bacteria in the lake would have been at peak. It should also be noted that this lake goes up and down at violently fluctuating periods, and there has been no apparent reason cited for this. More on this and an investigation as to why below.

A further FB post reveals that WMFS were again at the lake on 27th October 2018– “doing exercises”.


I made a freedom of information request to BCC about the levels after complaining about this fact, and here is what they claimed in response.

(i)Please disclose if any Birmingham City Council staff have remit to or have been given permission to lower water levels in Brookvale Park, either on an ad hoc basis or within the last year. Which officer of the council grants such permission?”

No change in water levels has been undertaken by any officer. Any decision to change the water level at Brookvale would be determined collaboratively by drainage officers and the District Park Manager.

(ii)Please disclose if any individual, club or organisation have remit to or have been given permission to lower water levels in Brookvale Park, either on an ad hoc basis or within the last year.”

Birmingham City Council has never given permission for the water levels in Brookvale Park to be lowered. 

(iii) To the City council’s knowledge, has any external authority have remit to lower the water levels at Brookvale park and may have done so within the last year?”

The environment agency might have reason to change water levels to facilitate inspection of downstream structures, but we are not aware of any such action within the last year.

(iv) Please disclose internal emails between Council officers within Parks/Highways/drainage and any other organisations in connection with the recently reported bird deaths at this site, and also the lowered water levels at the lake. I include in this any discussions to raise the water levels at the lake to prevent further deaths.

Please find these in the attached document. 

The only emails supplied consisted of an email dated 13th December 2018 between someone from the APHA and the BCC animal welfare officer – this was after the first reported bird deaths were made public.

And the other dated December 14th from the BCC animal health enforcement officer , which requests that all of the dead birds be removed from the lake on a daily basis- (obviously up until now they were not from this admission), and that “paddy”- the park keeper was getting complaints from members of the public and the RSPCA.

It is even more surprising that the dog wardens would apparently be instructed to incinerate and therefore destroy any evidence for investigation as to cause of death without pursuing this avenue via the APHA.


The FOI request clearly appears to state that BCC and their staff did not lower the water levels at the lake, and were not responsible for this- yet they do own this lake, which is used for boating and sailing. 

There may well have been an unreported or untraced  sewage related issue at the same time, as with the situation at Smethwick,  but the disturbance of the silt by WMFC would have been certain by these actions- directly resulting in botulism conditions being exacerbated.

The APHA guidance about being careful with suspected botulism and circulating potentially contaminated silt is noted.

It is noted, as will be evidenced, that the APHA sent this guidance to both the animal welfare officer at BCC, and also management at Sutton park- IN AUGUST 2018 FOLLOWING THE FIRST NOTED WILDFOWL DEATHS.

I made an FOI request to WMFC about why they were on the lake, and what they were doing, after also being sent pictures by a member of the public.


A relevant question as to whether the fire brigade knew what they were doing, and where the water was going.

(II)May I ask if any of these activities were at the request of Birmingham
City Council or any of their staff, on either a formal or informal basis?

(iii) Please provide any communications including emails and attachments
relating to such requests.

None the above have been on request of Birmingham City Council. However our crews do inform the park ranger of are visit.

(Compare this with the picture above and commentary!).

(iv)Can you state if any water has either been removed from or added to this lake by any of your staff and appliances over this period?

This information is exempt under section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 as we do not hold this information. We have not recorded if we removed or added water from this lake.

v) Are you aware of the perceived instances of suspected “avian botulism” at this site during this time following a number of deaths of birds, and what subsequent risk assessments have you carried out in respect of using this site, or the water/sediments contained within for your staff and appliances? Please provide any written information that you hold in relation to this.

This information is exempt under section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 as we do not hold this information. No records are kept in relation to “avian botulism” at this site and subsequent risk assessments.

I further queried some aspects of this response, as I considered it fairly poor.

On how many occasions have your staff pumped water from or to  this lake during these operations?

WMFS has been 3 times to this site in the last 12 months, we have  performed open water pumping training exercises.”

Could you please specify the dates and duration of activities if recorded.
Supply me with information held as to the nature of the “water pumping training exercises” , i.e any written information given to your staff in such a scenario.

On how many occasions have your staff pumped water from or to this lake
during these operations?

On the dates mentioned below the water is taken from the lake, into our pumps and sprayed back into the lake through hose.

Could you please specify the dates and duration of activities if recorded.

31st May AM

14th April AM

28th March PM

31st July 2018 AM

Precise times and duration are not record therefore this information I exempt under section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 as we do not hold this information.

NB they failed to give me accurate attendance of their activities at this site- on 27th October 2018 and 13th April 2019- just for two ! One must therefore wonder just on how many actual occasions these reckless actions were taking place with repeat disturbance of the silted water?

Supply me with information held as to the nature of the “water pumping training exercises” , i.e any written information given to your staff in such a scenario.

Please find link below to water pumping training exercises.

Fire Service Manual_Volume 1 – Fire Service Technology Equipment and Media – Hydraulics_ Pumps and Water Supplies

from chapter 6 onwards.

The  information from Chapter six appears to demonstrate the effects would be from such open water pumping activities. It is not clear if they used “The Holland Fire system” of pumping water, but given it is in their training manual, it cannot be discounted.

The “open water training” – as reported by one of their own staff- note the date of this, as it will become important as to the consequential result, but does not appear to match up with the claimed date of April 14th (as above) when it was stated they were there.


On 12th April– before their supposed arrival and 15 days after their previous claimed visit of March 28th, I observed a clearly sick swan on the lake and recorded the symptoms for evidential purposes in this video  .  I also rang the RSPCA to collect the swan which was clearly in serious distress.


A further spell of death was noted on the lake after the visit on 13th/14th April- see further pictures below taken on 18/4/2019.

These events clearly followed WMFS activity of pumping and disturbing silt within the lake, and cannot be dismissed as coincidence. But the actions of this council or lack of them in leaving dead birds in the water had been occurring for many months up to this period.

It is quite clear from social media postings by members of the public , that bird deaths had been occurring throughout the autumn of 2018, (in conjunction with the WMFS activities at the site, but had only been publicly reported and acknowledged – quite inexplicably when the local neighbourhood police had warned people about not letting their dogs near the water because of a number of dead birds- particularly swans. They stated that this was “on behalf of the park keeper”, yet no reason is given as to why the management of this park /environmental health had failed to communicate the message through their own BCC communications channel employees? The Birmingham Mail picked up this story dated 16th December 2018. 


The article claims that investigations had been launched into the deaths, but it appears that they already had some inkling given the comment about “elements that may cause harm to animals”- whatever that is supposed to mean. It is difficult to see how any investigation was taking place when someone from within BCC was requesting that the birds be incinerated- as per the obtained email from the FOI above dated two days before this article was written. No evidence of cause of death would be obtained, if none of the birds were even being sent for post mortem to the APHA. I would put it that far too much time had passed, with little to no response from BCC as to the unfolding situation at this park. 

Again, the APHA guidance about leaving dead birds in the water and not removing them is clear.

I made formal complaints to BCC about the dead birds , and the fact that they were not being removed promptly, and the lake and its management, to which I received a very inadequate response. I also sent the manager of parks in BCC, Joe Haden, the APHA guidance on botulism outbreaks- link, as evidenced in the email below from April 7th 2019. Of course, as will be revealed further on, they had already been sent this by the APHA themselves.

avian botulism


At the same time that myself and the RSPCA were noting and rescuing ill birds at the pool, as well as noting the council’s inadequacy to promptly remove them, another Birmingham Mail article appeared quoting a local resident who had also been tirelessly trying to get answers as to why so many birds were dying on the lake, and noted that the situation had been ongoing since the year before.

The headline to this was

“Dead swans and rotting carcasses wash up at Brookvale Park in Erdington”

There are some quite extraordinary statements made by BCC employees, which need to be highlighted here, both for their callous disregard for the welfare of the birds in an assumed avian botulism situation, the lack of following the APHA guidance, and also statements which are just false concerning botulism in birds.

  • The statement about the prolonged dry spell simply is not true. As evidenced by the picture from 31st July 2018, the level of the pool was not affected by any lack of rain or evaporation, but falls in water levels were as a result of water being let out of the pool by some means- drops of 9-10 inches were noted to be taking place within a single day- see indisputable evidence further on in this post.
  • The council try to pass this off as a natural occurrence, yet omit their role in failing to remove dead birds promptly from the water, removing dead tree debris from the lake, and actively allowing the fire service to use the lake- all factors in increasing the risk of avian botulism, as defined by the APHA guidance.

  • Incredibly the council identify the low water levels in conjunction with the deaths and the birds ability to now reach the silt, yet appear clueless as to why this has occurred.
  • “Once birds contract the disease, there is no cure available”.

This statement needs to be scrutinised and fact checked for accuracy. You can play around with semantics about “cure” , but the council here appear to be implying that there is no treatment available and the birds cannot be saved and will all die after contracting illness. This is simply not supported by factual evidence.

The APHA guidance, supplied to BCC states the following,

 “Treatment regimes, including careful oral administration of warm water to flush toxin from the gastro-intestinal tract in early cases, and nursing can be effective.”

The council refer to outbreaks across the country of AB, and it is clear from some outbreaks at different locations, that intervention by catching ill birds in a timely manner ,administering treatment, and removing them from the source of risk has resulted in them being saved and therefore “cured”.

botulism 1












NB. At least one of these birds was from Brookvale- collected by the RSPCA.


Bird recovered with care from the RSPCA, but was not released into the same contaminated and untreated environment it had come from.

I also give the following case study of three recovered treated Canada Geese that we rescued last year from polluted pools in Smethwick, and which were taken to Linjoy Wildlife sanctuary. The notes here were written by the experienced rehabilitator.

smethwick geese treated

These occurrences rubbish the claims made by BCC, and show that care and treatment can “cure” ill birds, but that it is the pools themselves which need to be treated and cured to prevent the risk to start with.

All of these organisations under the guidance of veterinary professionals chose to try to save lives rather than sitting on their flabby buttocks promoting that it was better to leave the birds to suffer in situ to die. 

Furthermore, on this point ,  an extract of the go to manual for veterinary professionals, from chapter 38 “Nervous diseases of the manual of raptors, pigeons and waterfowl” This is a table concerning the treatment for botulism type C- the avian botulism suspected in this case.


“If antitoxin and fluids are used to flush toxin from gut and bloodstream, 75-90% of affected birds may recover” (Olsen , 1994).

Further statements in the BM article


  • Clearly staff were not removing birds promptly,  as was noted in the December BCC email when they were noting just this after complaints from members of the public! And the whole driver of the April  BM story and the pictures show dead birds left in the water for several days. This was also my own personal observation which I know to be true.
  • “It would be counter productive to remove any sick birds as this would create stress on those creatures with no prospect of recovery”

This statement has already been factually disproven, but becomes an outright mistruth here! 

The care of this BCC spokesperson is none existent, who appears to be suggesting that the birds should just be left to die, by drowning and then removed at a later date. How an ill bird suffering from the prolonged effects of this illness and then slowly fading away to drown is NOT suffering stress is beyond me!

  • The water level is referred to as being back to “normal levels”- whatever that means.
  • The statement about brookvale being a great site is hopeful fantasy when they appear to be doing nothing to control the factors causing it.

A further email along very much the same lines as the person quoted from BCC in the article was publicly posted on facebook, and is written by John Porter. A local member was also copied in.


  • He repeats the statement falsely of “no cure or treatment available”.
  • “There is nothing meaningful to be done”. Perhaps this one line summary shows exactly what BCC management are all about. The apathy here is incredulous- clearly there are many things “meaningful” that could be done, its just that lazy people do not want to do them.
  • He claims that “we are in the hands of nature”- again not the truth when manmade intervention of lowering the levels of the lake by 9-10 inches is causing the water to fall, and not hot weather.

All I can say to Porter and his ilk is that  it’s a good job that some people think that there is something meaningful to be done and attempt to help wildlife at this neglected managed site. 

On spending a great deal of time at this lake in March/April of last year, I had cause to ring the RSPCA on several occasions to report ill birds, as well as to BCC itself- (without much interest from them).

Following the media story and my complaints, as well as concerns expressed privately which I know about by the RSPCA, the council started to finally collect dead birds from the lake and island. A boat was brought onto the site by Birmingham rangers on 18/4/19- (note just 4/5 days after WMFC had reportedly been at the lake on pumping exercises- see evidence of this above), though for reasons unexplained, the park keeper based at Brookvale appears unable to use it.










18/4/19 Sutton park rangers…. “clearing a lake of (dead) birds” at Brookvale park.

18/4/19 Ill bird suffering from symptoms of botulism , but more interested in picking up the dead. “Great work all round”

Bizarrely on this visit, when they could be bothered to bring a boat onto the site from the Mecca at Sutton Park , despite me telling them about the ill one pictured which was starting to drown, they sailed on past on the hunt for more dead birds, presumably in case the press turned up again with a long lens.

I also started to investigate the water source out of this park and where it went, scaling fences and following the brook course towards Spaghetti Junction at the M6.

I was sent the following pictures of the slipway by a member of the public, after the RSPCA had attended the site to pick up more dead birds and look for ill ones. He took pictures on this day, and the subsequent day after that. At this point the City council started to use their dog warden to allegedly look out for ill or dead birds. Again I would ask the question, was this not the park keepers job for this site?

deadat brookvale

The RSPCA retrieve 2 dead swans from the BCC lake on 10/5/19


Taken 10/05/19

water level2

Taken 11/5/19 – a clear massive drop in water level in matter of hours.

water level3

And back again to 10/5/19 hours earlier when the RSPCA had been in the water with their boat.

I then went to verify this for myself on 12/5/19 and took the following pictures which confirmed that the levels in the lake HAD dropped by 9-10 inches in just that time.


Taken 12/5/19 which shows just how much water had disappeared from the slipway in the two days.


opposite angle showing now exposed brick and silt. The water level just 2 days earlier had been at the base of the wall.



Measuring the clear scum line where the water had been revealed the drop from where the base of the wall begins.



Green scum line indicates the drop in level in two days


The outlet from the pool, again water level drop line clear.


Opposite end of culvert out of brookvale showing rubbish debris collected – but appears to have been rodded.


The brook continues in the direction of spaghetti junction but was very low suggesting water had been let out.

Near spaghetti junction gate 2 where another culvert flows towards the River Tame- was this also cleared resulting in a dramatic water level drop?



At the other end of the lake where the water flows in from Witton Lakes, clear tree debris and brickwork was also apparent and exposed silt.


The question that I would ask from this clear draconian drop (which has been noted on many occassions), is why no staff at BCC, principally the park warden considers this something not to be reported and investigated in light of the clear damage it is doing to the fauna at this site?

Despite communicating this information to BCC officers, they paid no attention whatsoever to the drops in water level, and this line appears to be continuing even in the face of the clear evidence I have provided. Instead I was lectured about “climate change” and weather conditions being repsonsible- well that is bullshit!

APHA bird death reports

I managed to obtain some APHA post mortem reports from Birmingham City Council on request. It appears that they had sent some birds for post mortem in August 2018. It is noted that these were in a very poor condition according to the APHA, suggesting that they had been in the water for some time.

Joe Haden in an email dated 18/4/19 stated the following.

“Initially over concerns over Avian Influenza (AI), a number of dead birds were removed and sent to the laboratories to test for AI as a matter of course, consistent with Defra’s current guidelines on dealing with the threat of AI. Discussions were then had with a Veterinary Investigation Officer based at APHA’s Shrewsbury Veterinary Investigation Centre, who carried out the post mortems and took samples for testing. He then provided advice, confirmed there was no AI or West Nile virus (also a notifiable disease) detected and sent a link to the Defra guidance. The presumptive diagnosis of Avian Botulism was discussed and confirmed in an email received on 9 August 2018, together with the laboratory report, this was sent to the Senior Animal Welfare Officer and Sutton Park Hub.”

APHA reference 26-B0037-08-18 related to a black headed gull and a herring gull.


” unfortunately both these carcasses were not in fresh condition and the herring gull was particularly decomposed and not suitable for further testing. It has not been possible to reach a diagnosis in this case.”

 A further submission APHA reference 26-B0062-08-18 consisted of two dead Canada geese and a swan. An interesting statement is made about the initial outbreak of the disease- (following remember the WMFC activities on the lake one week earlier).



The report received on 7th August was of sick swans and Canada geese.  Affected birds were weak and lethargic with flaccid wings, noticeable when in the water, and one swan could not stand and one goose was seen with ‘discharge’ at the corner of the eye.  The RSPCA had euthanased some clinically affected birds.  The park contains a large number of swans, geese, mallards and coots; approximately 20 birds have died so far.”


 The finding of presumptive diagnosis of avian botulism was supplied by the APHA , and at this stage they even sent BCC a copy of the avian botulism PDF- supplied to “the senior animal welfare officer at BCC and The Sutton Park Hub.” SO WHY DID THEY COMPLETELY IGNORE THIS ADVICE GOING INTO DECEMBER- AND ALSO FAIL TO INFORM THE PUBLIC , ONLY VIA THE POLICE, UNTIL THIS TIME?!!!

The fact that many birds were also being put to sleep is also concerning in that they were never given any chance of recovery.

“In view of the clinical signs described and the post-mortem findings the presumptive diagnosis is avian botulism as discussed on the telephone.

I enclose a link to further information about botulism.


A key initial feature of control of outbreaks is that all dead birds should be promptly removed as these are a potential source of toxin.  The toxin may be frequently found in maggots feeding on dead birds and these represent an important was (sic) of toxin dispersal to feeding water birds.  Further detail is given in the document in the link. “


With a lack of clarity over what was happening with these birds from either BCC or the RSPCA in 2019, or if botulism had been identified instead of just “suspected” , I submitted an FOI request to the APHA, citing The Birmingham Mail story concerning the dead swans.

“Could you please confirm if you have carried put any post mortems on wildfowl from Brookvale Park Birmingham , West Midlands- approximate nat grid reference SP091911 and supply me with the preliminary, supplementary and final reports concerning recent bird deaths .
Can you CONFIRM that these birds died from avian botulism, and was this a “presumptive diagnosis” without carrying out a test for this summer related illness?

I believe these may have been submitted to the Shrewsbury laboratory since December. “

The APHA responded with several attachments which appear to confirm that BCC had done nothing since the first deaths to investigate by scientific means as to what the cause of deaths were in these birds other than “presumptive diagnosis”. The deaths remember had been occurring for many months before this time, and the APHA had already sent them literature on methpds of prevention. For some reason however, the APHA failed to provide the recent 2018 Brookvale post mortems, which is very remiss given that it is within the scope of the request. 

APHA Ref. No. 26-B0002-01-19   

Relates to the submission of birds collected by the RSPCA from the lake, 3 swans, 1 Canada goose and 1 coot. All were reported to be in good bodily condition, and two of the swans had just been put down at the pool.


The RSPCA had clearly given the APHA a degree of background information into the issues at the site-  “Approximately 20 to 30 birds were reported to have died over two weeks including three coots, one tufted duck, two Canada geese, one domestic type goose and the remainder Mute swans.  Birds have been found dead or been found weak with droopy wings leading to inability to fly and walk.  Some have been taken to RSPCA Wildlife Hospital and Vale Wildlife Hospital for treatment and some have died or been euthanased at the lake.  Botulism was suspected from the clinical signs.” 

Furthermore and to confirm my own observations as described in this post

” The water level on the lake has been decreasing and the reason for this is being investigated.”

It is stated that one of the swans had a lead level of >600, (with  metallic fragments  seen on x ray), which probably refers to micro grams, and is a very high level- which again supports the statements  I have made about historic lead poisoning with swans at this site in conjunction with decreased water levels.

The other comments also support everything I have stated in this post, and it is clear that the RSPCA had shared my concerns with the APHA.

“I understand that there are concerns about the low water level in Brookvale Park and also there may still be carcase remains around the edge of the lake particularly on the island which would be a good source of toxin.  I enclose a link to information about avian botulism, one of the key principles in the early stages is to remove all carcase material and rotting organic material and improve the water quality.  I would be interested to receive further information about how this is progressing and discuss clinical findings in the live birds at the RSPCA Hospital.


BVSc MSc MRCVS Veterinary Investigation Officer


N.B This is exactly the same PDF I had sent to Joe Haden in February, but which Birmingham City council officers had already been sent by the APHA  in August 2018 already. 

Subsequent tests showed no presence of avian influenza in the five birds. 

They also tested for duck viral enteritis, a highly contagious disease in wildfowl, which again proved negative.

The suspected lead poisoned bird was tested for lead- finding a very high lead level which confirmed that this was the cause of death in this case.


 The kidney lead level is equivalent to 59.89µmol/kg wet matter, 50.8µmol/kg dry matter.  This together with the impaction of the oesophagus and suspected high blood level is consistent with lead poisoning.
The birds examined were in relatively good body condition with good reserves of body fat apart from Bird 5 which had findings consistent with lead poisoning.  The clinical history and lack of obvious gross lesions in the others is suggestive of avian botulism.  We have not found evidence of Avian Influenza or Duck Viral Enteritis.”  

A test for botulism was carried out on just one bird – a swan which proved negative, but presumptive cause of death was attributed to botulism- but the contributing factors are quite obvious to this, as expressed by the report. Perhaps

“there was something meaningful to be done”. 

Whilst fannying about with my complaint, BCC waited until they had another post mortem result which finally confirmed a single bird had tested positive for botulism, as though this was some form of case closed for them, to do nothing at all about remedial matters caused by their incompetence and pathetic management of silt over many years, as well as major tree debris in the lake that had been there throughout the same timeframe.

This APHA reference  26 B0243 04 19-08 (1)    related to another swan which appears to have been sent in April of 2019- again following the WMFC activities at the lake. Once again, the investigating officer at The APHA provides the BCC ignored link to avian botulism.

And then abruptly in July 2019 the deaths appeared to stop. I have asked BCC if WMFC had attended the site, or had been asked not to and got the following response from Joe Haden.

“We have no record of West Midlands Fire Service using the site for training and have not given permission or been contacted with any request to use the lake in this way.”

This of course doesn’t answer if they have.

In March 2020, out of the blue, a report from a member of the public at Brookvale came in via a rescue centre of a bird in distress at the site. From the symptoms of the swan it was obvious as to what had returned. But despite the poor prognosis, this bird made a full recovery WITH TREATMENT at the Linjoy Rescue centre in Derby.


NB “The botulism lake”, refers to one of the Smethwick parks.


But it wasn’t the last, and noting once again dramatic sudden drops in water levels, we are currently again in a spiral of bird deaths at this lake- particularly it seems affecting swans, which are of course able to access the deeper sediments.


Once again I have measured a 9-10 inch water level drop over a matter of hours.



It is clearly visible where the water level had recently been, any blind man could see this.

Despite this , this is what I have received from Joe Haden on this matter.

“Local Parks officers and Main Drainage colleagues have both followed up with their respective EA contacts as you’ve requested below. Both lines of enquiry have confirmed that the EA have not carried out any works locally that would affect the water level at Brookvale or Witton. EA visit the lake weekly and are of the view the changes in water levels (up and down) are in keeping with that location.”

So the EA, according to BCC believe that a 9-10 inch drop (up and down) is acceptable, despite the abysmal environmental damage that it is causing- which I believe is down to these very same people removing blockages down the line.

Despite claiming that they would be erecting signage at the lake telling people about avian botulism and other matters around this time last year, but failing to have done so, the following signs have suddenly appeared following the resumption of the dire situation.

The focus of these signs, and the misinformation contained within them appears to be focussed on the public, and not on the failed managment and animal welfare concerns of Birmingham City Council. We have linkages to eutrophication and their favourite anti bread message.

And AB is also caused by leaving branches in the water for months and not removing them, allowing the fire service onto the lake to recklessly disturb the water, and also leaving piles of dead birds to rot in this soup whilst allowing water levels to violently fluctuate- but BCC choose to not tell the public about any of this. I wonder if it’s because that would involve them doing something “meaningful” ?  

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Springtime for Sandwell’s birds?

After handing in a petition to Sandwell council concerning the dire situation at Smethwick Hall Park and the associated related deaths at Victoria park and West Smethwick Park, the response was awaited in the form of an officer report. We met Maria Crompton and officers on site to also discuss this and the possible plans.


There was also a further response from Liv Garfield CEO of Severn Trent Water concerning this petition, who offered to set up a meeting with her senior officers at the site.

These officers also met with Sandwell council, who have also submitted a bid to STW for their community fund. Both meetings were largely positive, and it was revealed that SMBC would desilt the pool at Smethwick Hall, which it should be remembered was contaminated with raw sewage– a major cause of fuelling avian botulism in the type of conditions which exist at this park pool.

This week, the report was released,with some other documents on the SMBC CMIS website, and will be considered by the SMBC cabinet for approval on March 18th.

I have to say that this is a most welcome report , and the plan in place will hopefully do much to put right some of the damage done by previous slow action and incompetence.

The main points being out forward are

The cost benefits of Option 2 far out way those of option 1, and there is also no doubt that only a complete removal of silt will suffice to remove the contaminated material. This is also true for the brook, which we also know to have been contaminated by raw sewage.

option 2

The new aerators are in line with APHA guidance in dealing with avian botulism incidents, but also there needs to be focus on removing organic debris contained in some of the pools.

I have no idea why the parks maintenance team was ever disbanded, and clearly this was a retrograde political step back in 2016 when it was. Pools remain a major focal point in parks, and with the council’s vision and boasts about green flags etc, this can only be welcomed as an actual positive step in making them a better place for avian and human visitors.

The full council press release concerning this,  where they claim to be spending a total of £342,000 can be read HERE.

How the council funds this scheme is of course down to them, but hopefully the Severn Trent fund will be successful, though it was explained that the company themselves do not have direct control of this process.

The reduction of the pool size is to be regretted, but will also help maintain the pool better.

There are details such as timetables and engineering issues which have yet to be set out, and the effect of works on the birds will also be important. There may well be some challenging issues ahead, and monitoring of the effects will be down to us to deal with.

There is also the issue as to whether STW can deliver on ensuring that there are no more sewage issues connected into this site, which unfortunately the report strangely does not choose to mention.

Perhaps with the Commonwealth games on the horizon, this decision taken by SMBC was on the cards, but be in no doubt that the petitions handed in to the authority and to the water company themselves were a key driver in delivering these positive plans.



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A raft of ideas for helping nesting wildfowl

If you are part of a conservation or wildlife group, here’s a few ideas for creating a nesting/roosting raft for your feathered friends.

With nesting season imminent, rafts are particularly good if birds have no access to an island for safe nesting, or if they are limited to nesting on the side of a pool which is prone to flooding. They can protect birds from predation all year round and increase breeding/survival success of young ones.


Still in use , if a little worse for wear some 15 years later

I got these designs several years ago when doing some conservation work for The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) , and as swanwatch we have put out several. Some are still being used nearly 20 years later! The costings of the one below are probably out of date now, and much of the polystyrene we found as abandoned litter from building sites, at least turning it into something useful. We used pine wood, but old smaller pallets are probably just as good.


Scan_20200229 (2)

The polystyrene gives buoyancy to the raft, and gives enough clearance for the water to rise when enough slack is left on the rope/chain which is anchored from the ends of the floating platform at opposite ends. We used old ice cream tubs filled with concrete, and also breeze blocks as anchors. With this design it took the weight of one person, and therefore plenty for a bevy of birds. A duck platform or “gander lander” is also preferable for young birds to be able to access the raft.

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A couple of more elaborate designs are shown in the BTCV book below.

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Home sweet home

Despite going to many efforts however, it seems some birds are not too fussy on where they park themselves for a kip.  😮


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Diesel everywhere!


In what is now becoming a depressing familiarity, yet another spillage of diesel in a local pool has resulted in severe problems for wildfowl living in the water that it has invaded.

Woden Road South Pool in Wednesbury, sometimes oddly referred to as Hydes Road,  is the latest casualty of this vile liquid’s ubiquitous presence in our natural environment causing havoc.


Let me firstly explain why this substance is so damaging to wildfowl and their ability to waterproof themselves after they have come into contact with it. Wildfowl have contour feathers and down feathers, the structure of which is shown in the diagram below.


Drawing from Manual of Raptors, Pigeons and Waterfowl. Benyon, Forbes, Harcourt-Brown.

Body feathers form a continuous waterproof layer over the body. Down feathers provide insulation and buoyancy. The structure of the contour feathers in a criss- cross character allows an air space which creates an impenetrable formation which repels water. Birds preen themselves regularly to keep the feathers in good condition by using oil from their preen glands.

When coming into contact with sticky contaminants like diesel, the feather structure becomes clogged and causes them to clump together. The air-water interface in the feather is lost and the birds become  non waterproof causing them to stay out of the water and become vulnerable to predators. They are also prone to hyperthermia in harsh weather.

Diesel in the water at Woden Road pool

The problem with birds is that they continue to preen themselves during this process which results in rubbing in the diesel over their whole bodies, so they eventually become totally smeared in the substance. Ingesting this toxic material can also have consequences of diarrhoea and dehydration, which also need to be treated.

The process of washing a typically oiled bird can take up to one hour, requires a constant temperature and several washes to remove all of the contaminants from the feathers. This is a very stressful process for the birds and usually fairy liquid is used in solution.


Oiled mallard. picture Caroline Watkins

At Woden Road, just about every wildfowl on the lake was covered in diesel, the cause of which has not as yet been determined. It is clear that an inlet into the vastly swollen pool is the main source from which it is flowing, and this may be due to some idiot or business tipping contaminants irresponsibly down the drain which unfortunately leads directly into this pool. There is an unexplained accumulation in the centre of the pool which appears separate to this. There were also however spillages on the path at this site, which could not have simply been run off from the road.



Though the council put a bale of straw in the inlet, this doesn’t appear to have had much effect, as the pool is probably over 1 foot higher than normal. The spillage has continued all week and has not been stopped and the source tackled. This means that more birds are likely to be affected until someone pulls their finger out to detect it.

There have been other spillages of diesel , mainly on canals in the area in recent times, in Tipton, Oldbury and Walsall. All of these incidents have resulted in birds being covered and having to be rescued by volunteers and the RSPCA. It is becoming a very expensive repetition due to someone’s ignorance and carelessness, and also that of society which consumes so much of this killer.


Oiled goose. Picture Caroline Watkins


Some of these incidents may have been caused by industrial concerns but many involve the use of marine boat craft on canals, and one can only hope that the eventual ban of all boats using this fuel is not far off.  Electric energy and recharging points are the only solution to this major environmental pollution. I pressed The Canal and Rivers Trust for a comment regards how this unclean form of current transport is destroying the waterways, particularly around boat yards where the grime is spewed out in copious amounts, but is never cleaned up by anyone. There has been a great hoo-ha about so called “climate change” and suggestions of reducing transport and reliance on vehicles on the roads in major cities and eventually phasing out diesel cars (amen to that), but why should boats on the waterways escape such a debate? An ecologist at the trust stated the following when I put the question to them.

“With regard to your query regarding electric boats, I have the following information. We offer an “electric boat” discount on boat licences as an incentive to move away from diesel.  We are also having discussions with relevant government departments on what a ‘zero emissions’ world would mean for inland waterways. So in answer to your question, it is on our agenda and we are taking steps in the right direction but as I am sure you will appreciate, this is not something that will change overnight.”

 Perhaps it’s about time running a diesel powered boat became a much more expensive hobby to encourage this change a little more quickly!

Without doubt the most frustrating part of these incidents is the total lack of response from The Environment Agency to date. You are invited to ring their “incident hotline number” on 0800 80 70 60 to report such pollution incidents, 9so far I have put in three calls), yet it is increasingly clear to me that this number is a massive Government fraud, as due to the unfit for purpose Common incident Classification Scheme, which I have looked at HERE, these reports are just shut down if they are classed as being “category three”, without any attendance whatsoever.

Let me be clear, The Environment agency staff are paid to do a job, the volunteers who rescue the affected birds and rescue centres that have to deal with them are not. The current level of service from the EA in response to these incidents is absolute shit. They are so keen to attend incidents which involve fish deaths-(the source of their quangos funding), yet they care nothing for wildlife above the water line, soiled by an industry they fail to also regulate from emitting such pollution.


One can see a time when members of the public have to effectively clean up these spillages themselves, and perhaps also attempt to trace back the pollution to the source it came from. In such circumstances where the polluter is known, but the EA fail to prosecute, they should perhaps be unsurprised when those who are forced to do their jobs for them start  to operate outside of the law and decide to take direct action revenge on the polluters by using some fuel of their own.



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Liv Garfield’s reply

So here it is in full, the response to a letter and petition signed by 1200 people for Severn Trent Water to clear up the raw sewage pollution from their asset, by their 2.45 million a year CEO Liv Garfield.

I’m afraid as I suspected, she fails to see the issue of the sewage pollution and fails to even mention the proven fact that this occured and is the cause of the “avian botulism” that the birds on this site only began to suffer from AFTER the incident, and not BEFORE.

I’m glad she agrees that the situation at this site is “very disturbing”. It has given me and many other people a great deal of stress yet nothing compared to that suffered by the wildfowl at this lake and the two others that have been affected. You would think therefore that her company would want to put things right?  😥 Well obviously not when she doesn’t even appear to know the facts of the case.

She claims that they appointed an ecologist to do a report, but this is the first I have heard of this. I do not know if this is an independent cosultancy, or if this person even knew about the circumstances of the proven raw sewage event and the readings independently taken by the Environment agency which confirmed the presence of human faecal matter in the silt.

Garfield mentions the surface water sewer, but THIS IS NOT FROM WHERE THE RAW SEWAGE CAME FROM, even though raw sewage which flows from this brook course was seen by the environment agency running through the allotments site. The “unmapped asset”, as Severn Trent engineers called it which she does not mention was the source of this pollution in Margaret Gardens. One wonders if the ecologist even knew about this?

For the sake of clarity, here is what her own staff reported on the official Environment agency incident form. FFS!!



“Severn Trent have called back to give an update for NRIS 1696951. The crew have been out and confirmed that there is a misconnection at the location. The property in question, Margaret Gardens. Approx. 20 properties which connect to a foul line which then leads to a surface water line that then leads to the outfall. There is a lot of misconnection work to be done.”

Severn Trent would later claim that this was “an unmapped asset”.

She claims that the root cause of the issue is the over silting of the pool, which pushes the issue back at Sandwell council.

I am not arguing the fact that this local authority and its parks management over many years appear incompetent and unable to offer an explanation as to why this situation got as bad. But to divorce the recent fact of the raw sewage going into this pool, which correlates directly with the recent bird deaths in favour of historic blame is I am afraid just not acceptable of this company chief. RAW SEWAGE IS A PROVEN ENERGY SOURCE OF AVIAN BOTULISM. FACT. 


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.”

Garfield claims that “the primary issues Smethwick Hall Park are outside the remit of Severn Trent”– again a reference to Sandwell council appearing to have to carry the can.

She then offers 3 points.

  1. Mentioning once again the surface water red herring, which has nothing to do with the issues in the lake and the bird illness.
  2. Mention of a fund that STW runs- some £10 million over five years– compare this with their profits in 2018- CF £525 MILLION, and you can see how small this is. The maximum on offer to any bidder is £250,000. I have sent this letter, although Garfield has copied in Councillors Crompton and Ali anyway, to the two cabinet members for them to action their officers to apply for this money by putting in a bid. It is after all, largely the fault of Sandwell council to have monitored the silt part of this situation over many years, so it is the least they can do, if they claim they do not have the money to desilt the pool. The STW money relies on match funding, so SMBC would have to cough up some considerable dough anyway, but will they? 

I personally will have nothing to do with this application, as it is merely a promotional vehicle for the corporate polluter responsible for this issue to promote themselves in a positive light. They are a “reckless” company as has been seen already, and all that I am concerned with is the birds, not exactly the shitty little park owned by SMBC that they have unfortunately found a home on.

SMBC have not stated what their plans are for this pool, but with the breeding season approaching in March, one can see that this will be used as another feeble excuse for delay. There has already been enough of this already.

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Garfield also is open to an “urgent senior level” meeting with the council, which I asked for in the letter, so at least that is perhaps a little to take forward, but will the council set this up, or is it going to be another standoff?

I have no idea what communications or discussions have taken place “at senior level” between the two already, but so far they have excluded any local input.

The birds will continue to suffer until these two parties put matters right. Unfortunately in the face of previous incompetence, dithering and procrastination on this matter, I have little confidence that they will.


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The geese go marching in- Severn Trent Water raw sewage pollution petition delivered



And so it was that an intrepid gaggle headed for Coventry to hand in the online petition to the disgusting Severn Trent Water- the raw sewage polluters of Smethwick Hall Park. The parallel Sandwell council petition was handed in to SMBC  and is now going through their processes.

We arrived at St John’s Street, home to Severn stench and also their used contaminated land sewage works sell off offshoot “Midlands Land Portfolio”- which they inherited but now flog off for profit from the former nationalised water sector. (None of the land is ever properly decontaminated before they flog it- as has been seen by the dodgy deal at Friar Park near Bescot which has now been snapped up for housing – paid for by taxpayer).

Gooseman and the gang got down to business, and readied their props.






It was obvious that the staff were instantly thrown into a bit of a flap, and we were met by a poe-faced reception- the usual crap about “private property”- although they don’t seem to mind about causing unnecessary suffering and pollution on public property. JUST TO EMPHASISE THAT THERE WAS NO SHOUTING OR VOCAL COMMENTARY FROM ANYONE HANDING IN THE PETITION, AND WE WERE COURTEOUS AT ALL TIMES. 

Anyone would think that armed with a stop sign and a handy converted swan hook bog roll dispenser that we were trying to stick them up.  😆


Stand and delivered- petition for their lives

save smeth1

Not only were the staff abrupt and rude, but also barked “who were you expecting to see”. Answer- “No one, we just came to hand in this petition”.  😮

There was also some crap about filming inside the building, well whoops……


Having finally appeared to seek information about what it was about from someone upstairs, I handed them the petition, and the enclosed letter to CEO Liv Garfield which describes that background to this issue. But even though the envelope made clear as to who it was addressed to, they still opened the contents to look at the letter. I mean I haven’t cultivated any bio hazardous wastes in ….years.  :roll:


cosplay time

I also asked for a receipt of delivery, which of course, along with the documentary evidence of handing in this petition to this  company means that they cannot be seen to just put it through the shredders. The receipt refers to the petition only, and not the letter, but let it be clear that this letter was handed in for the CEO to read, and this is why it is an open letter which can be read below.


The main points of this are

  • A full description of the events leading to the raw sewage pollution and the linked deaths of birds.
  • Severn Trent’s denials juxtaposed with their obscene profits of £525 million in 2018– over £2 million of which Liv Garfield pocketed herself.
  • A request for a meeting with her and Sandwell council to discuss this matter
  • Calling upon Severn Trent to reimburse Sandwell council to properly clear up this raw sewage pollution.


I also copied into this letter Sandwell cabinet members Councillor Maria Crompton and Councillor Wasim Ali (who is also the ward member for Smethwick which covers the affected pool).

I am unsure of what if any action SMBC are intending to take to the damage caused to their and our park by the “reckless” Severn Trent Water, but it is clear that Max Cookson, who was (not) dealing with this matter has now left Sandwell council.

Severn Trent have not only lied about their involvement in this whole affair publicly and its affect on the birds, but they have also erased legitimate and non offensive comments made by concerned members of the public about this matter on their facebook page.


There are other comments on this page from disgruntled customers about the “service” received from this dire water polluter.


You’ll be waiting a long time for this reckless company to act.


What nasty behaviour!


This private façade is in direct contrast to the utter corporate drivel of “corporate code of conduct” responsibility that the Coventry crapsters claim to promote from their public face. One wonders if they have tears rolling down their cheeks like Lily Allen when they wrote and read back the prospectus , yet never really act on what they claim in practice. Just a few sentences here which people who are aware of what happened in Smethwick can see if they agree with.  😡


It can take just one bad decision to damage the trust that our customers, communities, investors, regulators and colleagues have in us, so please do take the time to read and review this guide regularly and help us to achieve our vision of being the most trusted water company by 2020.”

DIRECT QUOTE FROM CEO LIV GARFIELD- Let’s see if she acts on the information that has hopefully been passed to her from her failing colleagues on the front line, and “does the right thing”. 


None of these have occurred in Smethwick, but it is noted that if you rearrange the first letters of the highlighted words you almost get “CRAPIE.” lol.

Let’s see if the CEO of this company displays some “environmental leadership” and we do not have to return to this place in greater numbers. Now there’s a really good idea…  😈


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Correcting Severn Trent Water’s lying spin- AGAIN


I suppose I should have known that the irresponsible serial polluting water company Severn Trent Water would attempt to divorce themselves of any responsibility regards bird deaths and the dire state of Smethwick Hall park following the confirmed raw sewage release into this pool.

This was clear from their three representatives at the meeting with Sandwell council a couple of weeks ago, and by the comments made by an unnamed spokesperson in The Express and Star article concerning the petition. 

There are firstly a couple of things to reemphasise from the meeting, and questions which have not been answered.

Firstly Severn Trent know that sewage was reported back in January. The same STW engineer, named in this NIRS report was present at the meeting.

  • Severn Trent set out their version of misconnections with a map of the catchment that they had  been looking at. But I spoke out about how little had been made of the fact that this sewage incident had directly contributed to the dire conditions in the pool. I raised information obtained from an FOI request about NIRS incident reports from the EA, one of which I had reported in January- REF 01672260 06/01/2019. There appears to be great discrepancy in Severn Trent’s statements regards how long this issue of sewage has been affecting the pool. At the meeting, one officer claimed that it would have been a matter of “days” that the sewage had been going into the pool from the so called “unmapped asset”, but if you look at the incident in January, they are themselves aware that sewage was the issue, and smelt it themselves!




“08/01/2019 S. Roe (EA)  rang STWL for an update. Informed that a crew attended and a strong sewage odour was observed. Ammonia readings at the weir were 3.7 and 4.5 at end of lake.”

They were also aware that the levels of ammonia, a strong indicator of sewage were very high. “As far as we can tell from the extensive searches we have been conducting over the last few weeks, there are not any blockages contributing to this pollution and it seems to be multiple miscons that intermittently  pollute. “

Except there WAS a blockage, and this is where the story of the unknown asset starts to become a bit of a mystery as to how it really was.

Of course, when the Environment agency visited the pool in April and following the drop in water levels, the smell and visibility of the human excrement was vivid in intensity.


P.Mullard and B.Baily attended the Smethwick Hall Pool finding the pool containing grey water and solid sewage. P.M and B.B collected water samples and sent them to the lab for analysis. Tom reported Severn Trent had attended on the 28/04/19 and not found a blockage. “


  • The blocked unmapped asset story does not add up, as a local resident who used to work for the parks at SMBC brought up at the meeting. Why would this private operator not know about assets that had always been known about historically by Sandwell council drainage staff?
  • How is it that a Severn Trent team manager believes that this “unmapped asset” ,that they claimed to know mothing about up to the point when they allegedly found it, would only have been discharging raw sewage into the lake for just a few days? How could he possibly know this- if they did not know of the assets existence?
  • How can they possibly estimate the frequency or amount of raw sewage that has been probably been polluting this lake for many years? They cannot divorce the claimed lack of knowledge of its existence, and then invent this total fairy story bullshit of it only producing problems shortly before it was “discovered.”
  • It is clear from the first NIRS report in January that raw sewage was polluting the pool then, as Severn Trent themselves had observed.

In a previous Express and Star story, Severn Trent claimed that raw sewage had nothing to do with the bird deaths and was “unrelated”!


The latest quotes from Severn Trent are as follows.

“Since May, the sewage company said there has been no more reports of contamination at the site. Severn Trent Water also disputes claims that the botulism cases have been caused by polluted water. ”

  • The site IS STILL CONTAMINATED, AND HAS NEVER CEASED TO BE CONTAMINATED! The results that the EA took after the meeting in July confirmed human excrement as present in the silt and in the water.
  • The sediment results can be viewed HERE, and the locations of samples taken in the map.
  • The water sample results can be viewed HERE, and the locations of samples taken in the map.
  • It is still there and hasn’t just magically disappeared.
  • The polluted water claim being unrelated to botulism is risible, as will be shown below.

“A Severn Trent Water spokesman said: “Following extensive testing, it’s clear that the birds at Smethwick Pool died as a result of avian botulism.

“This disease is not commonly associated with domestic sewage of the type that was released accidentally in May.

“We continue to offer our expertise to Sandwell Council and the Environment Agency as they work to improve conditions at the pool.” “

  • How can Severn Trent claim that “domestic sewage” has many different forms?  If it looks like shit and smells like shit, then it will pollute the water, it will raise the PH in the pool, and it will be the case that oxygen will be dissolved, and ammonia readings would rise. ALL OF THIS WAS FOUND BY THE EA TESTS. HUMAN EXCREMENT WAS FOUND IN THE SILT AND WATER- CONFIRMING WATER QUALITY DETERIATION. 

The claims made about raw sewage and poor water quality being somehow separate from this matter of bird deaths are simply not the case.

This is what Paul Holmes from the APHA stated (who was at the meeting) in a recently published report on avian botulism.

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



“In addition to permissive environmental conditions, C. botulinum also requires an energy source for growth and multiplication. Because it lacks the ability to synthesize certain essential amino acids, the bacterium requires a high protein substrate; it is essentially a “meat lover.” The most important substrates for toxin production in natural wetlands have never been identified, but there are many possibilities, including decaying organic matter or any other protein particulates. Decomposing carcasses, both vertebrate and invertebrate, are well known to support toxin production. Human activities can also increase the available substrate for toxin production in wetlands (Table 38.2). For example, wetland flooding and draining, pesticides, and other agricultural pollutants may kill aquatic life, thereby providing more substrate for toxin production. Raw sewage and rotting vegetation are other potential sources of energy.”


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.”

It is therefore clear that Severn Trent lie when they claim their raw sewage pollution has had  nothing to do with the bird deaths. The raw sewage, is an identifiable energy source, which you will recall, they cannot state for how long a period and in what quantity has gone into this lake over what time frame, from an asset which they claim they do not know the existence of. There is clear action and consequence of action demonstrated.

From my direct observations, and again, I raised it at the meeting, Smethwick Hall Park, as well as West Smethwick and Victoria Park Smethwick are infested with daphnia in the water.


“Although many substrates are suitable for botulinum toxin production, in order for a botulism outbreak to occur the toxin must be in a form that is available to birds. In some cases, decaying organic matter may be directly ingested, but in other cases there must be some means of toxin transfer from the substrate to the birds, presumably through zooplankton or invertebrate food items that inadvertently consumed toxin. Invertebrates are unaffected by the toxin and, because they feed on decaying matter, they can effectively act to concentrate toxin. Although most waterfowl will not directly consume a vertebrate carcass, they will readily ingest any maggots that fall off of it. In this way, botulism outbreaks often become self-perpetuating.”

These creatures are present in hundreds of thousands, both dead and alive. I believe that with the raw sewage conditions in this lake, THIS IS THE PROTEIN SOURCE THAT THIS BACTERIA IS THRIVING ON. There is a clear “boom and bust” life cycle being perpetuated by the conditions at this lake, which when the daphnia become infected and are swallowed by the birds are causing them to die from the “avian botulism”.


Taken at Smethwick Hall park. The small flaky white specs are daphnia in the water.

The article gives a diagrammatical representation of maggots being host carriers, but this could equally apply to the invertebrates in this lake.


A Severn Trent biologist present at the meeting remarked that there must be “nutrients” in the water to sustain these creatures- yes quite- and to perpetuate the botulism toxin thriving because of your company’s “domestic sewage” which is still present in the lake.

I firmly believe that this route is the one which has caused “avian botulism” at every site in this country, and is a route caused directly by “domestic sewage” as well as other suitable conditions making these parasites thrive as hosts of the botulinum toxin. I put out a direct challenge to The Environment Agency or any other water company to test the silt and water for human faecal matter on any lake where avian botulism has occurred, and you will find it either in the silt or water, along with an infestation of daphnia in the water passing it on in ideal conditions.

So there it is Severn Trent. You can attempt to pull the wool over people’s eyes and look stupid, or you can be a responsible company and put right the misery that your network has unleashed in this part of the world. The raw sewage issue at the site has a clear causal link to the deaths of birds at the site, and it cannot be divorced. 


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A Question of silt

Eureka! Sandwell council having finally been asked by the ICO to respond to an FOI request I made in July have finally responded. This concerned so called “trash screen inspections” of Smethwick Hall Park. I am still a little mystified as to what these actually are, who caries them out , and what is done with the information when they are processed. To which manager at the Oldbury Kremlin are they presented, and then what does he or she do with them if they call for some action to be taken? Having also spoken to several park staff employed by SMBC, they claim to have never even heard of them, or are they just bullshitting me or have been told not to give me any information- well it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that has happened would it?  😆


The blocked “trash screen” at Smethwick Hall park, which directly flows to The Birmingham Mainline canal.

Perhaps lack of managerial action in light of the remarks recorded  is the reason why this request was not answered in a timely manner, but whatever the reason, the supplied information did not have with it a reason for the delay , or a reason for failure to conduct an internal review when this was not answered within the timeframe of 20 working days as required by law. Nor did it provide all of the information that I had asked for, records of site inspections going back to January 2013.  On this point I am going to write to the ICO again, without asking SMBC to conduct an internal review, as I do not believe this would even be answered or conducted, and again I would have to write to the ICO anyway.

The supplied information, consisted of scanned file sheets for the site in question for each month between January 2018   and July 2019. It is hard to see the cost of retrieving and scanning these as “excessive” in terms of not supplying the full request time period I had asked for. There was also no order to the zip file, meaning that to get the picture of what was being observed and recorded, (and not acted upon by management), required some resorting. But as I like jigsaw puzzles, below I set out the full chronological order of observations and comments for site 24 Smethwick Hall Park in the relevant screen shots.

The first thing to note about these is the subjective tick box exercise of whether the site is regarded as “good”, “fair” or “poor”. Anyone familiar with this site, and the appallingly blocked grid condition that it was in between these two dates would be hard pressed to see how anyone would have believed this site to be in a “good” condition- but there we are!  :roll: The other is why someone would tick “YES” that the grid was clear of debris, and then contradict that by saying that they couldn’t even reach the middle of the grid to clear the debris!





This appears to be the first in a series of comments about how access to the middle of the grid cannot be reached.

MARCH 2018


Another comment made about being unable to remove debris from the middle.

APRIL 2018


The third consecutive month where a record of not being able to clean the middle of the blocked grid is made.

MAY 2018


This comment records that the water level has dropped by between 6 to 8 inches. This I believe refers to the level of the water behind the build up of crap that was blocking the front of the grid. It was to reach even higher , as photographic evidence will show later.

JUNE 2018


What exactly was done, and how? Did the water level drop as a result of work that was done, and what effects did this have on the lake and its bird life itself?

JULY 2018


A “plan” is called for as to whether man or machine is required to “clean grid properly”. So this appears to admit that it wasn’t being cleaned properly. This period of time corresponds to when the first dead and ill birds were being reported at Victoria Park Smethwick.



“Reported birds in pond/not to touch pond until report on birds”

What does this mean and what report is referred to here? Were dead birds observed at this pool at this particular time, as this is the first that I have heard of dead birds being present at this site, when they were also being reported at Victoria Park. Who in SMBC had instructed the compiler of this sheet to not touch the pond? How long were the birds, if dead left rotting in here without being removed, and what effect did leaving these dead birds in the pool have on others. APHA guidance on leaving dead birds in situ is quite clear in that it will make botulism cases worse.



Once again only the side of the grid appears to have been cleared of litter.



Surface litter was removed from around the top of the pond around the edge of the grid.



“Still waiting for mechanical clean out”



“Still waiting machine clean out”



“Still waiting on machine clean out”



“Need long reach mechanical to clear debris from grid”. 

For the fourth successive month , it is clear that the job of properly clearing this grid had not been done properly. But which manager at SMBC had failed to act on these comments for this amount of time?

MARCH 2019


The debris is claimed to have been cleared, but I am quite aware that it had not been cleared sufficiently as the below pictures testify. The claim that the grid is clear is a pack of lies.

Picture taken 20/4/19 showing extent of blockage of grid and debris surrounding it.


Mike gets the weak flaccid winged bird from the blocked outlet.

The picture above was taken around 23/4/19 and shows the debris surrounding the grid and the fact that Mike was able to walk on this solid mass to get the ill goose sat on the edge of it.

APRIL 2019


The comment on 26/4/19 is now described as “all clear”. This coincides with the raw sewage pollution which I reported , and had involved the fist ill birds observed on site a few days earlier. I believe Max Cookson at SMBC was responsible for arranging the hasty removal of the silt and debris blocking this grid. But who had failed to act in allowing this situation and the many statements made in the inspections about it being blocked?


Picture taken on 25/4/19 when Hills contractors were clearing out the feet of silt and debris blocking the grid.

Tonnes of material were removed from this one small area, and it was quite clear that this was months worth of debris that was blocking the grid. The level of the water was at least one foot below the level of the crap blocking the grid. This event in relation to lowering the water levels in the height of hot weather and faecal pollution incident that was still occurring was an absolutely disastrous kneejerk decision that should not have been taken. The fact that the silt was present with months worth of debris that had not been removed, but had diligently been reported is one which needs to be scrutinised!



JUNE 2019


No comment is made here, but note the comments made about the site at Cemetery Road!

JULY 2019


Once again, the site at Cemetery Road has a blockage, and once again this had been reported a month earlier but nothing done.

MEETING OF 26/11/19

As reported in the last post, this meeting was supposed to update on proposed actions that would be taken. I was eager to see if Severn Trent water and SMBC were going to cough up the money to desilt the pool. Present at the meeting were several SMBC managers, Severn Trent, the RSPCA and the APHA where the birds had been taken for post mortem.

  • Severn Trent set out their version of misconnections with a map of the catchment that they had  been looking at. But I spoke out about how little had been made of the fact that this sewage incident had directly contributed to the dire conditions in the pool. I raised information obtained from an FOI request about NIRS incident reports from the EA, one of which I had reported in January- REF 01672260 06/01/2019. There appears to be great discrepancy in Severn Trent’s statements regards how long this issue of sewage has been affecting the pool. At the meeting, one officer claimed that it would have been a matter of “days” that the sewage had been going into the pool from the so called “unmapped asset”, but if you look at the incident in January, they are themselves aware that sewage was the issue, and smelt it themselves!




“08/01/2019 S. Roe (EA)  rang STWL for an update. Informed that a crew attended and a strong sewage odour was observed. Ammonia readings at the weir were 3.7 and 4.5 at end of lake.”

They were also aware that the levels of ammonia, a strong indicator of sewage were very high. 

The blocked unmapped asset story does also not add up, as a local resident who used to work for the parks at SMBC brought up. Why would this private operator not know about assets that had always been known about historically?

  • The representative from the APHA gave a report on the number of birds received at Shrewsbury from the three parks. As I set out in a previous post, two of these birds from Victoria Park had confirmed botulism, but it still appears that despite the many birds from Smethwick Hall that had died, only four of poor quality had been submitted by SMBC. A discussion on botulism outbreaks at other venues across the country was raised. This occurrence should not detract from the fact that causal factors at this site are very much attributable to the poor water quality and presumed illness and deaths of the birds. It was stated that most of the botulism cases that the APHA had looked at had occurred in town areas. I would out the case that these sites probably have similar sewage and “misconnection” issues.
  • Deaths on the parks had slowed down in recent weeks. This could be due to the fence that was erected at Smethwick Hall, and also increased water levels and colder weather.
  • A couple of “unusual” flukes had been noted on the post mortem of cygnets from West Smethwick Park
  • The RSPCA confirmed that only one cygnet of the three they had taken away from West Smethwick park had survived. No explanation of why they had earlier stated that the family at this park would be taken away, but were not was provided. I stated that I had made a formal complaint to the RSPCA about this, and the lack of information that the organisation had provided in connection with this issue.
  • SMBC revealed that they had approached contractors with regard to desilting. Unfortunately this does not appear to be the whole pool, and only the area to the first island and  an area near to the trash grid at the other end of the pool. This would be mechanically removed and not via vacuum truck. The water level would be dropped in the lake to achieve this. The favoured option was to bury the material on one of the football pitches, and the park would have to be closed off. The cost would probably run into six figures.
  • Concern was expressed by myself as to the operation to desilt the pool without isolating the birds from the contaminated area. I suggested putting in stop planks to prevent birds from getting into the area, and so that the water level could be kept as high as possible.
  • Severn Trent enquired if SMBC had sought any clarification from the EA as to whether this waste would be allowed to be stored on site, or if it would be regraded as “special waste”. SMBC said that they had not.
  •  I stated in the Express and Star that cabinet Maria Crompton had said.

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

  • I asked if indeed Severn Trent would reimburse the council, to which they did not answer. SMBC via Max Cookson stated that that was between Severn Trent and SMBC.

I have to state that I was not very impressed with what I heard from either Severn trent or Sandwell council at this meeting. That SMBC consider this to be a matter out of the public domain probably means that it will be the taxpayer, and not Severn Trent who have to foot the bill for this long time parks managerial utter failure. This on top of the destruction and spiralling costs of the Londonderry playing fields for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games aquatics centre, where some trinagular shaped humans will have five minutes of fame, shows where SMBC put their priorities. Green flags are false flags.

It was also noted that not a single councillor was present at this meeting, including the three who claim to represent the area in question. What that says speaks volumes to me.

The desilting exercise is I am afraid just an apparent repeat of the disaster which took place in April. It is all very well doing “something” when they have failed to act, but not even half of this pool will be desilted, and the risks to the birds are unacceptable. There are no plans or mitigation currently to stop the birds at the site being exposed to the same contaminated silt that they have effectively been isolated from in recent weeks. Unless something is done, when the water levels are allowed to drop, the deaths and illness will restart, and it won’t be SMBC who do anything about the ill birds will it?




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