Friday, 17 October 2008

Something nasty in the water

About 12 years ago Sericol had a spillage of cyclohexanone at Porehole Lane near Westwood Cross, now I have read a few of Rick Card’s comments on this and I had assumed we were talking about an oil drum or something.

He spoke to me earlier today and said that that the environment agency have told him that so far 470 tonnes of cyclohexanone have been recovered in the 12 year long pollution clean up operation that is still going on.

Also they confirmed that part of the aquifer was damaged, I am beginning to think that we need a proper review of the activities being carried out on the aquifer and a proper assessment of what should be allowed in the future.

Click here to read about cyclohexanone

I have added a link to the British Geographical Survey report on Thanet’s aquifer you have to have a pdf viewer installed to read it.


  1. Michael

    As you know Tony should be providing you a copy of the EA letter to scan in.

    I can quote parts here if that is helpful

    "Sericol had several attempts at determining the potential volume of solvent lost to ground. It was soon apparent that this would not be possible to predict, with any accuracy, as there had been no proper stock control system in prior to the problem being identified (Good knowledge of deliveries and production but incomplete details of solvent use in the process) and the tank with the below ground pipeline had been in use for a long time potentially with a small leak throughout its lifetime."

    "Boreholes were drilled in to the chalk to determine the shape (depth and extent) of the plume of cyclohexanone contamination in the ground and to determine the concentration (amount at any point) of the solvent within the plume. While it had not extended far laterally it had made its way down through the chalk rock all the way to the groundwater. The solvent had preferentially moved down through fractures and fissures (Natural cracks) in the chalk but also soaked through the main matrix (big blocks) of chalk. This column of contaminated chalk was mapped out from the information derived from the investigation boreholes, detailing the depth, extent and magnitude of contamination of the rock above the groundwater. THE CONTAMINATION IN THE CHALK BY THE SOLVENT MEANS THAT THE BLOCK OF CHALK WILL CONTINUE TO ACT AS AN ONGOING SOURCE OF CONTAMINATION TO THE GROUNDWATER FOR MANY YEARS"

    (My capitals)

    "Particular investigation was carried out to see if the contamination had migrated towards the public water supply abstraction system (which had been switched off) Again the solvent had found preferential flow paths through fracvtures in the chalk."

    "A system was put in to prevent the movement of the plume of contaminated ground water and to draw back the plume and treat the water where possible. This was achieved by operating a nsystem of three deep pumps that controlled groundwater levels and brought contaminated water up for treatment"

    "Remediation has been underway at full scale since late 1996. The remediation scheme has worked very well with a present total of nearly 470000 Kg (470 tonnes) of solvent having been removed from the chalk aquifer"

    Yes Michael it came as a surprise to me. My thinking was that the volumes would be similar to the twenty to thirty gallons of tetrachlorethylene I am interested in, that may have gone walkabouts, from Cummins Petbow.

    I can understand now why Sericol chose to have their lawyers present when they reported their suspicion of a leak to the EA forerunner the National Rivers Authority.

    And of course why they may have had an interest in not calling police to investigate alleged forged qualifications of a certain tory cllr member of their engineering installation and maintenance staff.

  2. more cyclohexanone information here

    I hope those who have labelled you a scaremonger re CGP will now have the good grace to apologise to you Michael.

    Remember that this Sericol incident occurred on TDC watch.

    That the leakage went on for an as yet undetermined number of years BEFORE the National Rivers Authority received Sericol's report and only then was the local water abstraction switched off.

    I hope this Sericol revelation (assuming that ex TDC Cllr Ladyman MP does not already know) will concentrate Steve Ladyman's mind on revisiting the matter of the standard of pipe and vessel welds on the recent Pfizer Development (an issue up to now ex Pfizer employee Steve has refused to pursue)

    And as you know I am already trying, via Kent Police Authority, to raise Kent Police inquiries of the site weld inspectors.

  3. Just something about our phone conversation today Michael.

    I am qualified in mechanical and electrical engineering. I was originally a REME Helicopter Tech Airframes and Engines. I got ONC Mechanical. But was at best mediocre as a mechanic. However I got the second highest mark in REME history in the electrical and electronics appreciation courses we did.

    So as an adult I retrained in electrical. Gaining ONC Electrical and HNC Electronics and Control Engineering.

    I beat 19 graduates in all three open competitions to gain a job in NHS in Medical Physics. But the pay was very poor. I went from that to heavy industrial contracting (for example making 736 quid a week at Port Talbot Steelworks 89/90 and a grand a week working for Siemens putting in a paper mill in 88/89.)

    So when I advance my technical arguments re Petbow backup gennies (for whom had the misfortune to work in 87) they are my technical explanations. And the Health and Safety Executive have examined them and conceded that they can pose no other explanation for the history.

    Don't hold your breath waiting for those who labelled you a water scaremonger to apologize eh ?

  4. David Green's blog carried a thread in May link here

    From the comments it appears that TDC were not forthcoming in voluntarily declaring the Sericol contamination is response to malcolm Kirkaldie's foi application.

    It appears that Malcolm queried contamination which would be an endocrine disrupter. (The endocrime system is the hormonal body control ... pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands and the brain chemicals like ACTH controlling the life mechanisms)

    Cyclohexanone is only suspected to be a developmental toxicant (either by affecting parent pre conception or affecting foetus) and an immunosuppressant.

    It is the immunosuppressant suspicion which would in fact be an endocrine suppressor category.

    So I would say, on the face of it, TDC concealed material facts in their response to Malcolms request.

    A more current question is whether David Green knew about the Sericol contamination and remediation project and ongoing threat to aquifer ?

  5. Annon, On 19/12/07 "Thors Hammer" 9th comment, read it.

  6. Quote from Thors Hammer Thanet Life (Simon Moores blog)

    "Poorhole lane

    Regarding the poor hole lane water table, I can recall that a test bore took place at the old sericol site and it was discovered that the solvent had turned the chalk pink. The water table had not been reached but the contamination was nipped in the bud. What was realy interesting was when the sericol poorhole lane was cleared was the find of earthernware ginger beer bottles in a pit. These bottles were from the ozonic mineral water company from 1934."

    This, worryingly, represents what elected councillors believed to be the history. It now emerges that the solvent would not have stained the chalk but the process of remediation wou;ld do so. So it seems reasonable to infer that, at the time cllrs got information, the remediation project (which has run so far twelve years) was already under way.

    As I understand it TDC cllrs may have become aware of an anonymous letter to TDC reporting red staining at the Poorhole Lane site.

    If this was after 1996 then Thanet District Council "Environmental Health team" had already attended key meetings between Sericol, Sericol lawyers and the then National Rivers Authority (Now Environment Agency) and Southern Water.

    What was written on the Thor's Hammer Thread was a former cllr's account of what he was told at TDC.

    I think you will find that he now feels that he was lied to. That he had no idea at all of the length of years this solvent had gone to ground before the local water abstraction was switched off, no idea of the extent of the ongoing remediation action and no idea that quantities of 470 tonnes extracted so far over twelve years were involved.

    I hope Tony drops you off a copy of the EA reply Michael and that you scan it in so readers can make their own minds up and not rely on an historical (and I'm afraid well intentioned but inaccurate) account on another blog.

    I will be replying to Environment Agency and in that letter also formally reporting precautionary concerns about the Pfizer Development Site.

  7. Anon 0043

    Just what part of the Environment Agency statement did you not understand:


  8. I should add this detail.

    I will also be replying to an FOI response I have received from Richard Samuel of TDC.

    In fact Cllr David Green sat on the Standards Cttee concerned. There was a question raised (apparently withheld from the cttee's knowledge) about an alleged caution by a former Chief Executive to former Tory Cllr George Richard MAISON at a time he was a maintenance engineer at Sericol in the 1990s.

    Allegedly at that cautionary meeting, brought by Cllr Margaret MORTLOCK, MAISON admitted to running a mail intercept and accessing elected cllr mail and TDC information circulation.

    In 1998 (some months before Mrs MORTLOCK successfully sued MAISON for libel in a North Thanet tory Assn matter) Sericol allegedly held internal inquiry into stock thefts and forged engineering qualifications. As a result of this inquiry allagedly Leon King, the Managing Director of Sericol, chose to gibe MAISON ten thousand severance and instructed his secretary to tell me that "Sericol did so in order to be able to stand back from matters"

    Of course what Leon King was not saying was the scale of the Poorhole Lane contamination incident and the embarrassment to Sericol if a case was made alleging that MAISON may have obtained skilled employ there for ten years through the deceptive use of false qualifications.

    I did ask Sericol to report to police any findings re dangerous subtances suspected stolen and any information re the alleged forged qualifications matter to police. As both matters may relate to the open case 1989 Deal Barracks bombing inquiry.

    Of course the Environment Agency FOI statement casts a new aspect to the question currently before Kent Police Authority Standards Board "Did Cllr HAYTON on oath tell Aldwych High Court in 1998 that there was no process of inquiry touching on MAISON" ?

  9. If Rick has left any space for anyone else to post, I would like to post the following for those that are unable to view a PDF file

    Pollution from diuron and its metabolites is, like nitrate pollution, a ubiquitous problem
    within the Isle of Thanet aquifer. The widespread diuron pollution is symptomatic of a much
    larger problem of historic pollution within the aquifer system. Diuron was observed in 90% of
    samples (0.4-214 ng/L). In 60% of these metabolites were more prevalent than diuron. Mean
    total diuron concentrations were above the Prescribed Concentration Vale (PCV) at nearly
    30% of sites and showed a large concentration range (2.2-1161 ng/L). Maximum
    concentrations for diuron and its metabolites were in the following order
    DCA>DCPU>Diuron>DCPMU, all four compounds exceeded the PCV on at least one
    occasion. There is some evidence to suggest that diuron occurrence could be spatially related
    to areas of urban and industrial development. Results from groundwater tracers (SF6) support
    the idea that high diuron concentrations were associated with the unusually high recharge
    observed in the winter/autumn of 2000-2001.
    The Isle of Thanet Chalk aquifer has characteristically short residence times, as evidenced by
    the response to historic reductions in applications of other pesticides such as atrazine and
    simazine and recent groundwater tracer studies. This is both a benefit as well as a drawback in
    terms of overall groundwater quality. While the problem of diuron may be only transient,
    given improved application practices, the aquifer is still vulnerable in the short-term
    depending on the quantity of diuron stored in the unsaturated zone. Much more needs to be
    understood about the transport and occurrence of diuron in the unsaturated zone to determine
    more fully the future risk to groundwater from pesticides such as diuron.
    Despite some evidence to suggest that the metabolites of diuron may be more toxic than the

    parent compound, there is currently no requirement to monitor metabolite concentrations in
    groundwater. Should this change there could be potential implications in terms of future
    management of the groundwater resource in the Isle Thanet aquifer, and across the UK as a

  10. Coo. I thought I'd stumbled on the OU site.
    No wonder nothing gets done in Thanet. Yadda yadda.

  11. Couple of thoughts here, firstly I can’t fault any of Rick’s science or engineering and I have ploughed through a lot of it. If you follow it through to its logical conclusion it makes for some worrying thoughts and raises some questions.

    I do feel when I have pointed out various scientific or engineering problems with local developments, that if they could have done, the people behind those developments would have pointed out the flaws in my reasoning.

    What I am not finding here or elsewhere is any reasoned scientific argument saying that all is well.

    Cyclohexanone is highly volatile and has spread out into the chalk below the Westwood Cross area, because of the very high volume of the spillage one would assume that the vapour has and probably still is coming out of the ground there.

    Not the least being, how safe is it for pregnant women to live and work there?

  12. Tony should be dropping you off a copy of the EA letter tomorrow. Maybe you would consider doing a new thread scanning it in and I will not comment on it. (Give others a chance)

    (1) Why did TDC elected cllrs not know about this situation ? I have emailed you about this

    (2) If cllrs had known about this Sericol incident would they have made the same decision re CGP or would they, with greater precautionary principle in mind, have required a full EA and TDC Ground Contamination team prior agreed application ?

    (3) Why has the Sericol site not been administered by TDC, for property buying and planning application search purposes, as a landfill with contaminants ?

    (4) Why did this matter not emerge as part of the Westwood Cross planning process ?

    (5) I did delay in bouncing the FOI application on this until I had established information that quantities of cyclohexanone had been stolen. This justified me in asking Kent Police Authority to request Chief constable to make inquiry (Chemical is used to make drug pusher drugs and can be used to make IEDs). Happily (If Sweeney site is correct) retired Chief Supt ROGERS is back in Thanet no doubt anxious to help the current Kent Police Authority Standards Board deliberations ?

    (6) Having said that the information justifying an FOI application was out there for anyone to see. Name of the chemical (Thors Hammer thread) and knowledge that water abstraction had been switched off. Ergo there was a big volume involved. I did, I admit, fib a tad on blogs to give the impression that the EA volume could be used to deduce the amount stolen. And happily that did get a return of information about and thus confirming the thefts.

    (7) The EA information also implies that Sericol had no means to detect thefts at any stage of the pre 1996 history.

    (8) I have put on the record now with Environment Agency the reasons for my concerns about the standards of pipe and vessel welds at Pfizer. I have sent you a copy Michael but not for publication.

  13. Whilst you are all discussing serious pollution issues, you might like to be aware that 'Our Leader' describes this as 'scaremongering'. He clearly feels it more important to enable CGP to make a quick profit on its development and provide an entree for cheap Chinese imports than consider the long term benefit of the community in Thanet. It won't matter if we glow in the dark as long as a few jobs at Manston are available to us.


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