Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Wednesday Landfill: How Much Asbestos On Site?

While we all wonder about the clean up to date of the Spodden Valley dumps and works and the wisdom of building homes on this can we get some idea of the amount of waste dust being produced from this installation? And therefore having to be disposed of somewhere or other, most cheaply on site presumably.

Today's Rochdale Observer letter (above) backing some aspects of Turner and Newall's saintly performance was written by the man who built some of the dust extraction equipment in the 1950's. Very modern insights then.

This the same equipment that kept workers less dusty than the surrounding outside residential area which was - according to Turner and Newall's own figures - about three times dustier? And also than the exterior of the Turner plant which had around four times the asbestos - and no requirement for protective clothing.

They produced the figures in fact to justify the idea of recirculating their own air rather than pulling any in from outside. This was in 1957 in appeals to the local Factory Inspectorate (above) to let them off normal requirements to pull in fresh air, and later that year in internal memos (below).

I wonder how on earth the local air got to be so claggy with asbestos and other dustiness? Was someone else blowing it there? Was there a callous disregard for local people's lungs by Turner's? Or what was it?

This extraction equipment our man helped create collected up to six tonnes (15,000 lbs) of asbestos dust A WEEK in 1957. This was DUMPED TO WASTE, apparently locally.

Six tonnes a week times 52 weeks. 312 tonnes a year. For how many years? Suppose this output was for just fifty years of the plant's 100 years plus production. 15,600 tonnes. Where would the other fifty years worth have gone? Who knows?

But how much area would this 15,600 tonnes take up and to what depth? Well, let's assume this was concentrated in carefully mapped locations and say one metre deep, capped let's hope with hardcore and soil, and prevented from leaching into the water table.

Let's suppose that a tonne of asbestos dust not only weighs the same as a tonne of feathers and a tonne of sand, but takes up around the same volume as the latter. Like one of those big builders' bags. Around one metre cubed.

15,600 tonnes therefore takes 15,600 square metres. One minimum sized football pitch would be 45 metres wide by 90 metres long = 4,050 square metres. So the asbestos waste from 50 years at this rate of production would almost cover four modest parks pitches to a depth of one metre.

One maximum sized international football pitch is 90 metres wide by 120 metres in length. 10,800 square metres. The estimated output over 50 years would cover almost one-and-a-half Wembley pitches one metre deep in raw asbestos dust.

Each square metre of the stuff would contain trillions of trillions of fibres of asbestos. And remember it only takes one fibre to bring about lethal malignant cancer.

Nonetheless if Turner and Newall had mapped the deposits they'd made and recorded the any volumes taken for disposal off site there'd be a chance of a clean up and containment of any and all dust. They must have done that, right? In answer to your reasonable question ... did they buggery!

A great place for family homes is the Spodden Valley. Of course Cyril says he hasn't decided on the desirability of building homes there. No thoughts either way, preferring fact, in this matter at least, to fantasy. He has said disingenuously he had shares in asbestos only for speaking rights, claims that he made no money on them, and claims that he has disposed of them. Meanwhile his brother Norman - a local planning expert and wheeler dealer - says he has never had any interest, financial or political, in the company "TBA".

Almost three weeks ago we first brought you this picture of a wooded idyll, from Spodden Valley as it goes. And we promised a description of how some of this was shifted. Here goes:

In 1996 TBA took the top off this asbestos tip. Work began in the summer, digging out compacted waste from a fenced off area at the side of Woodland Rd. This area started by the river. (photo taken from side of the tip.)
One man with a digger loaded a convoy of waggons. The digger driver and waggon drivers wore no protective clothing. They were all in short sleeves (no masks). Dust could be visibly seen. These men were contracted labourers, they did not work at TBA.
When employees of TBA came on site they wore protective clothing and masks.
While this work continued people passed within yards of the gates and loading area to get into Healy Dell nature reserve. There were bikers, walkers, even groups of children on school field trips. They were unaware of the vulnerable position they were in.
The gates were left open at weekends, children were using the compound as a BMX track.


tory boys never grow up said...

While Mr Brooke and the engineers (and the asbestos industry)were no doubt trying to eliminate or reduce asbestos fibres - that does not excuse TBA or the asbestos industry. What is now very clear is that for many years - and certainly well before the election of the TBA candidate as MP for Rochdale, senior TBA management were receiving advice that the medically safe levels of asbestos were well above those in the TBA factories (and the higher levels outside) - now I wonder if Mr Booke wants to admit to knowledge of the medical guidance given to senior management (or to the lawyers who helped TBA and the industry in avoiding and reducing the liability claims), or was he duped by TBA as well.

It may well be that the industry was only trying to reduce the extent of its crimes because it knew very that what it was doing was dangerous and the industry's culpability would become evident very quickly.

Chris Paul said...

They were playing a game. Those on the pitch didn't have the helicopter view as they say. They saw steady improvement and good moves rather than the impossibility of the task.

Anonymous said...

No, something much more sinister could be going on with the letters page of the Rochdale Observer.

The fact is that Cyril has been on the 'phone asking people to write in supporting him, TBA and asbestos.


Read the supportive letters. Most mention Cyril. They then go on to describe model working conditions.

Why is that sinister?

Firstly it is the re-writing of history prompted by a selfish desire by Cyril Smith to protect his reputation and 'legacy'.

Secondly, (and this is where it really gets sinister) if the supportive letters perpetuate a myth that TBA was a model company with good working conditions then what is wrong with building houses on this world-leading safe and wonderful factory site?

What sorts of misinformation are being pushed at the moment...?
Deaths from asbestos? What deaths? The Rochdale Observer suggests that the asbestos cancer death rate is levelling out? A dusty factory? No- it was lovely and clean. Waste? -No it was all recycled into life-saving products? People were paid well and were very happy- they even got 'looked after' if a familiy member died of "natural causes". Obviously not the sort of place that has any international significance or should be rememebered as such.
Best to demolish it and obliterate all memory of it.

A classsic "sweeping under the carpet" of a lot of dubious goings on.

Norman and Cyril Smith remain very protective of this area. They say they have been publicly silent on this but their published letters suggest otherwise.

Since property developers bought the site, the Smith's lack of bark has been deafening.


Chris Paul said...

Why indeed? I feel in my waters that someone somewhere is going to tells us before too long. Is it MMC that are the developer with the plans?