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.

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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 The costings of the one below are probably out of date now, and much of the polystyrene we found as abandoned litter from building sites, at least turning it into something useful.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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!

 

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“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. 

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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.”

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

 

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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.

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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.  😆

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Stand and delivered- petition for their lives

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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……

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.  😡

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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”. 

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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!

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“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.


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“30/04/2019
 
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. “

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  • 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”!

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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….

ALL OF THESE CONDITIONS ARE STILL PRESENT AT SMETHWICK HALL PARK.

I have also found a published article, which confirms that RAW SEWAGE IS VERY MUCH CAPABLE OF CAUSING AVIAN BOTULISM CONDITIONS TO EXIST, IN SUCH A POOL AS THAT IN STONY LANE.

“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.”

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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.”

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.

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“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”.

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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.

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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. 

TO MAKE CEO OF SEVERN TRENT WATER LIV GARFIELD TAKE NOTE PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION CALLING ON SEVERN TRENT TO CLEAN UP THEIR RAW SEWAGE POLLUTION WHICH IS CONTRIBUTING TO THE DEATHS OF WILDFOWL ON THIS LAKE.

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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?  😆

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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!

JANUARY 2018 

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FEBRUARY 2018

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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

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

APRIL 2018

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

MAY 2018

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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

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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

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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.

AUGUST 2018

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“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.

SEPTEMBER 2018

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

OCTOBER 2018

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

NOVEMBER 2018

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“Still waiting for mechanical clean out”

DECEMBER 2018

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“Still waiting machine clean out”

JANUARY 2019

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“Still waiting on machine clean out”

FEBRUARY 2019

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“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

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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.

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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

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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?

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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!

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JUNE 2019

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

JULY 2019

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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!

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“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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A message for Sandwell council and Severn Trent Water.

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The paper petition calling on Sandwell council to take immediate environmental action and desilt the pool at Smethwick Hall Park, as well as the connecting issues with the other two parks has been delivered. Around 400 signatures were handed in, and this will now go to The Cabinet Petitions Committee next month. A big thank you to all those who gathered signatures and signed! 

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SMBC have a great deal to answer for in regards to how this pool ended up in the condition that it has, and also why they have failed to answer a Freedom of Information request concerning their inspections of this site. Could it be that these logs would record the managerial failures to act over some considerable time, and that is why the council have not even bothered to answer the request , or conducted an internal review as required by law?  😉

Having written to the ICO, they have now written to SMBC asking them to answer this request within ten days. (They have had since July 28th with the original request).

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The second online petition to be delivered to Severn Trent CEO Liv Garfield now has over 1100 signatures. Please keep signing and sharing this so that this persistent environmental polluter is aware that people are outraged at what has happened at this site and the consequences of trying to duck responsibility to put it right. It is clear from some of the comments, that Severn Trent Water customers are not happy with the Coventry cowards. Here are some of the latest remarks from those who have signed the petition. A big thankyou on behalf of the birds for this!  😛

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“Help the beautiful sweet Canadian geese to clean water, they are entitled to that, they don’t have to die unnecessarily in because of human pollution.”

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There is a meeting next week between the main parties, and I will update on what happens with this and the petitions. 

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Save Smethwick’s park birds petition

With the continuing issues surrounding bird deaths at the three parks in Smethwick following the raw sewage pollution caused by Severn Trent Water, two petitions are currently being circulated. The first is a paper petition which will be handed in to Sandwell council, calling on them to take urgent action to remove the toxic threat in the sediment and silt at Smethwick Hall Park (Stony Lane). They have to remove the silt , but in a responsible way, but unfortunately are continuing to procrastinate about contractors. How long does it take to get three quotes exactly? Three months- I don’t bloody think so!

Unfortunately due to the recently announced general election, the date of the next cabinet petitions committee will be pushed back to December instead of November- due to purdah. This is unfortunate but means that there is still time for local people and park users to sign. Contact the facebook page if you are able to help here.

The second petition is an online petition that anyone can sign, and will be sent to Severn Trent. It is likely at some point that there will be a demonstration outside their headquarters in Coventry, should they continue to shrug their shoulders and attempt to avoid responsibility for this environmental disaster, of which they are the major cause. We already know that they have a dire environmental record of faecal assaults on the West midlands environment. 

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HERE IS THE DIRECT LINK TO SIGN THIS PETITION WHICH WILL BE SENT TO LIV GARFIELD- CEO OF SEVERN TRENT.

In my enthusiasm to set up the petition, I unfortunately mistook her for the elf from The Lord of The Rings.  😳 This is now corrected, but still appears on the link. Still , it would be cool if Liv Tyler actually did sign the petition.  😮

In just a week we are at 500 signatures. Here below are just some of the reasons why people have signed. A big thankyou to all those who have signed and shared via social media. please continue to do so, and if there are any twitter users who can share the link to the petition, I would be grateful.

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“It is our duty to respect and protect animals and nature! They, too, have a soul. They, too, have the right to have a healthy life on this planet. In that a nature. You know it? You are humans, be human. Take, finally, your responsibility and react, please.   Stop this suffering towards animals and nature! Civilize? It’s sad to sign petitions. Thank you.”

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A special mention must be given to Lindsay from Linjoy wildlife rescue who has done a great job in helping recent birds we picked up from the two parks recover. As she says, if the effort is made , it is possible to save lives. You could do that by signing our petition. Thankyou.  😀 

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Save Smethwick’s park birds!

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

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

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

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

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

 

BIRD POST MORTEM RESULTS.

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


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17th July 2019                   7  x geese

17th July 2019                   1 x goose

18th July 2019                   1 x goose

24th July 2019                   2 x geese            1 x duck

25th July 2019                   10 x geese          1 x coot

26th July 2019                   2 x geese

Fence erected

29th July 2019                   2 x geese

30th July 2019                   1 x goose

5th August 2019               3 x geese

15th August 2019             1 x duck

16th August 2019             1 x goose            2 x ducks

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

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

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

 

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Certainty of contamination with raw sewage!

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Really?

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

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

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

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

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Subsequent supplemental reports confirmed no salmonella present.

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


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

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

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


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

 

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

 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

ENVIRONMENT AGENCY- SILT AND WATER TESTS. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A risk to human health not managed by Sandwell council

NO FOI RESPONSE FROM SANDWELL COUNCIL

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

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

WEST SMETHWICK PARK AND THE RSPCA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Subject access request- goose revelations, fireworks and more

I recently submitted a Subject Access Request  (SAR) to Sandwell council. This is something that anyone can do in relation to authorities that hold personal information about you as a data subject, and is a provision of The Freedom of Information Act.

This offers a broad brush of potential information, so you are invited to try to narrow it down. One of the subjects that I put forward was about Sandwell’s goose cull of 2013-14 and the campaign resulting in The Local Government Ombudsman decision ruling which upheld my complaint in respect of several parks officers in Sandwell council, as well as their contractor who lied about what they had done. I was awarded the sum of £150, but declined this returning the cheque to then chief executive Jan Britton, who has now left the council after years of truly disastrous control.

As part of this request I asked for all communications and attachments held in respect of this involving elected members and named council officers.

The majority of the information eventually supplied to me by the council, and after serious delay by them on this subject and others, appears to consist mainly of emails that I sent to them, but with all the names redacted of whom they were sent to. This is fairly pointless, given that I still hold all of the emails that I ever sent them going back nearly a decade.

Unfortunately, Sandwell council have redacted all names on the emails about me between officers and members, to prevent me identifying who sent them. I also believe that I have not been given all of the communications by them by any means. I will be appealing this , as there are some aspects which appear to warrant “personal injustice”.

Sandwell council try to cover up.

Back in August 2014, when I had released the film of  Pestex undertaking a round up in 2013, (having been told by them and 4 other Sandwell council officers at that time ) that they had been released at the Sandwell Valley), I put in a freedom of information request concerning missing geese at Victoria Park Tipton.

I attempted to find out what had happened only to be lied to again by parks manager John Satchwell, in a phone call which also saw him making veiled verbal threats against me. These were reported to the council via appropriate channels, and you would expect them to be dealt with under the complaints process.

It became clear only after the FOI had been published and a news story broke and became viral, that SMBC had some hasty explaining to do. The council’s  explanation as to why they had carried out the cull in these two green flag parks, with the personal vested interests left out  in those explanations concerning the then parks manager, were obviously then released to widespread derision and ridicule.

This conversation below , now released publicly for the first time shows the questions that The Birmingham Mail reporter asked SMBC , and also their response. It appears to show someone in SMBC, presumably from their communication spin doctor (liars) department.

The Birmingham Mail , after being contacted by myself, asks the question as I did at the time, as to why SMBC had posted the FOI response to my house, rather than on the whatdotheyknow.com website, where it was publicly available. I stated that this was deliberate to avoid being made public knowledge, i.e in order to protect the council liars.

This email appears to confirm that they were quite aware that the response HAD NOT been posted to whatdotheyknow, and instructs that someone uploads it. The email also states that “this could run”- which of course it did, way beyond the negative reaction that SMBC envisaged!

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I have to say that this is a rare example of good local journalism, and unlike that so often given in The Express and Star involving Sandwell council, (see further below in this post )where responses are merely printed as factual and not questioned.

I then asked reasonable questions of the council and appeared on Radio WM , as well as the story going National when the video of pestex rounding up birds was released.

This was obviously a game changer to the council who were by now aware that a major petition was underway to call officer actions to account under scrutiny. As I learned at the time, this was the first time that a petition calling for this had ever been put in to Sandwell’s Labour council.

A bonkers SMBC letter defending the cull and revealing how little they knew

This email was written in September 2014 when the council were on the ropes in terms of the pathetic excuses given for culling the geese. I am not sure if it was written to Animal Aid or another swan rescue organisation, but from the start it swerves answering staright questions. Given that it refers to a letter that I received, this can only have been written by Maria Crompton, or at least briefed for her.  This letter was dated 14th August, so just a month before.

  • How can “distress” be measured, when no one from SMBC was even present at either the round up or the cull? The birds were clearly in distress when I filmed them being contained in the horsebox.
  • Questions of “experience” reveal a great deal, as is the fact that the SMBC respondent wasn’t there at the culling. See highlighted in red.
  • The reference to human spittle was the fact that one of the pestex employees spat on the grass at Victoria Park Tipton, and can be seen on the video.
  • They cannot answer which sexes were left behind at the site, nor indeed if mates and family groups were split in this random “distressing” episode.
  • “There is clear evidence that particularly during the breeding season Canada Geese can be very aggressive and do harm other waterfowl. Whilst I have not witnessed this myself I am reliably informed that this does happen.”

Where do you even start with this one! No “clear evidence” is presented that Canada geese harm other waterfowl, because none exists. In fact it is the opposite, with swans attacking Canada geese throughout the life cycle. The author states they have not witnessed this themselves but are “reliably informed” that this does happen. By whom, I wonder- the same council officer liars who made up statistics and rubbish to justify a cull and then lied about this repeatedly?

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  • Once again, where is the “clear evidence”?
  • Muscovy ducks are of course a “non native species” just as Canada geese are termed. SMBC had ludicrously appeared to have suggested that these had been displaced by the geese, but who had illegally put them there to start with never addressed. One hopes not Sandwell council.
  • In terms of the young goslings, the author of the letter has already stated that they were not present at the cull.

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  • I would point out that at no time did I tell the newspapers that I had seen young goslings being rounded up. I supplied them with several pictures, one of which was of young goslings taken at Dartmouth Park just a few years earlier. This was quite purposeful, as it proved the fact that they were not pricking eggs (see above), and that if SMBC  had an issue on numbers then there was “clear evidence” that this was a problem that they had let happen. The goslings featured in the picture on this website header were geese in Dartmouth park that would have been likely to have been amongst those rounded up and killed by Sandwell council. I cannot say for sure what was rounded up at Dartmouth park (including goslings) as I was not there- and neither of course as we know was anyone from SMBC.

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Juvenile Canada goose goslings at Dartmouth Park taken 16th July 2011.

 

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A Freedom of information confirmation that SMBC staff were not present at the cull- on SMBC property, and no contract with Pestex. 

This email refers to an FOI request that I made about SMBC’S relationship with Pestex and an internal review due to them not answering the questions. I won’t go over this again, as it has been covered HERE. What this email confirms is that in preparing the answer, SMBC were really not up to speed on what to say.

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Darren Cooper’s diktat

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As can clearly be seen already in this post, and throughout the report The prejudiced lie written in direct response to the council’s cull, SMBC’s logic behind it and actions were objectionable and misguided. Their evidence was far from “clear”.  These deserved adequate scrutiny and investigation.

The former Leader of this council , Darren Cooper said nothing publicly about the cull at all for several months. He left it to others to face the flack, yet when he responded to a campaigner who wrote to him stated the following, that it was he and his cabinet that had taken the decision.

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This would drop him personally in the shit as it subsequently appeared that no decision at any meeting had ever been recorded and no record of this meeting exists. I still hold the opinion that this was because Cooper was lying to protect Satchwell and no “political decision” was ever made, just an officer one.

It could however confirm that Cooper did not want his personal involvement and wrong doing uncovered , and so ordered the diktat below.

From the SAR, an email which SMBC have purposefully blanked out to disguise who sent it shows the little Hitler dictator author instructing others , probably officers, to not have any contact with myself only through him or her. He or she further then states that I should be treated as “vexatious”. No evidence of vexatious behaviour is provided with the email, because none existed to back up the statement. IT WAS A PURE ATTEMPT BY ONE INDIVIDUAL AT GATEKEEPING POLITICAL AND OFFICER CORRUPTION WITHIN SANDWELL COUNCIL.

I believe the author of this ,due to the abysmal mixing of “is” for “his” to be the said moronic Darren Cooper . Seen here is a direct example of how this gutless, fat yellow coward used public servants and tax payer’s money to do his bidding, and to cover up lies that he knew had been told by his corrupt parks officers, and also most laughably in the process, not even able get his diktat right. 😆 Such a great socialist, but one in true action.

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“I do (not) want any conversations being had with him by any officer without informing me or (blank) in the first instance.”

I believe the blank name to be “Jan” , as in Jan Britton, his right hand man in covering up the wrongdoing in SMBC.

Cooper’s actions here are unlawful and without mandate. That any officer of the council complied with such as unilateral a decision would make them as corrupt as he was if they carried them out.

I am not clear if this “vexation policy” was ever introduced against me, though this email in itself was never passed to the LGO in my complaint to them, presumably because she would have come back with the observation “please provide examples of Mr Carroll’s “vexatious” behaviour and your “vexation policy”. 

It is clear here that the author of this email was attempting to cause me personal injustice in getting to the truth of the council officers lies, and theirs, and the unrecorded political decision that never existed in record.

DARREN COOPER=DEAD CORRUPT LABOUR AMATEUR POLITICIAN AND COUNCIL LEADER. 

Brunswick park bonfire cover up

Another example of Darren Coopers’s lies when council leader occurred again to protect Satchwell and his council’s wrongdoing in the event that left several people injured in 2015.

I have detailed how this event unfolded and the subsequent lies of Cooper repeated faithfully in The Express and Star without question. At this point I would add to this that a former E/S journalist told me that Cooper had personally threatened the Express and Star after he had become leader with pulling all SMBC council  advertising with the paper unless they started to print more favourable news coverage of SMBC and its actions. I have no doubt that this was true and have no reason to doubt this journalist.

Did this have any impact with the hierarchy of the paper? Many people have commented elsewhere as to how they covered Cooper and his regime in many subsequent news stories. When I asked SMBC via an FOI as to how much they had paid MNA media/Express and Star during the particular reign of the “supreme” leader, they were completely unable to provide evidence of what they had actually paid them  for!

“The invoices we receive are from MNA and we are then able to identify which of these relate to Express and Star. For 2014/15 total spend on MNA Invoices was £72,190.02 – this amount includes £15,661.08 of Express and Star invoices.”

One hopes that it was not for printing “good news” and or gatekeeping bad news like the absolute inaccurate and falsified pack of bullshit  lies below, which still appears on their website!

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I submitted a freedom of information request about this incident after receiving specific information about it; obviously Cooper’s diktat had not worked and one officer in particular was widely despised by many staff in his command.  😮 😮  😮

This is the internal email that refers to my request.

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Not sure why the author of the email felt the need to put several exclamation marks after my name, but thanks, I take it as a compliment.   

In the particular case of the Brunswick park Bonfire, there were serious editorial failures in the press reports of accuracy involving the known lies that Cooper was making about the “rogue firework”- after he would have known that the council officer in question and the firework company had gone ahead with the display knowing full well that they were not complying with  published guidance and health and safety laws. He knew that one officer had stated that they would “take the responsibility for what happened.”

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The subsequent email below I believe to be written by John Satchwell and possibly to Maria Crompton, the cabinet member at the time.

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The response to the request was sent to whatdotheyknow by Lynn Floyd, who I believe was Satchwell’s secretary at the time. It is incredible that he was the one dealing with the request knowing what it contained, and this is obviously expressed in this email. The fact that legal services were asked about it is presumably an attempt to ask them if there was any way of dodging answering the request- presumably through the process of caveats within the FOI regime. Obviously there weren’t.

The bombshell in this is the statement “WE STILL DO HAVE FOUR CLAIMS PENDING FOLLOWING THE INCIDENT.”

Presumably Cooper would also have been aware of this, as would many other staff, and no doubt the lies that appeared in the press both from him and the SMBC  spin doctors were a direct attempt to stop the people injured from making such claims and establishing the truth, or the public from finding out about it. SHAME ON ALL THOSE WHO WENT ALONG WITH THIS FRAUDULENT DECEPTION.

SMBC’s ignorance of wildlife and pesticide legislation.

The background to this foi request can be read HERE, concerning what I observed two smbc pest control operatives doing in Victoria Park Smethwick, and in particular several failures to adhere to correct pesticide legislation and use.

Question 3 and the published foi request response from smbc stated that

“3. Are rodenticides / 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? 

“Rodenticides are always placed in a safe location, by trained operatives based on a site specific risk assessment and depending on the nature of rodent activity in the area. Rodents are often attracted to water sources so it may be appropriate to bait adjacent to this area but all reasonable steps are taken to protect non-target species.   All rodenticides are used strictly in accordance with manufacturer’s guidelines, particularly in relation to health and safety. Other than the precautions referred to above, there are no restrictions on the location where rodenticides are used.  “ ”

The internal email relating to the answering the request is quite staggering in that whoever wrote this in relation to non target species i.e those protected in law by the Wildlife and Countryside Act states  “I’ve made a few small changes, but in the answer to question 3 I’ve have added a reference to taking all reasonable precautions to protect non-target species. Given Mr Carroll’s interest in wildfowl, I think it would be useful to be able to say  this if we are confident that it is true”

Well I certainly hope that they are “confident”! 

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Make no mistake, there is much missing from this subject access request and what I asked for, particularly involving a matter of fraud that I reported within the parks department. An internal review will hopefully reveal much more, or if not the information commissioner’s office. SMBC have form for trying to cover things up. 

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