Rochdale residents fear that a former asbestos factory site is being used to dump industrial waste. Although security guards on-site say it is standard building material, the lack of council knowledge of these activities has sparked concerns.
Turner Brothers Asbestos Company owned a factory there, which at the height of asbestos use was the largest such factory in the world. In those days there was no training on the dangers of asbestos, and no safety equipment or clothing available to protect workers from the deadly fibres and dust.
TBA site now infamous – potentially “Rochdale’s Chernobyl”
When the factory closed in 1998, there was around £263,000 of asbestos claims by former employees pending against the company. It was eventually sold in 2004 to property developers, who wanted to build an ‘urban village.’
Administrators working on behalf of Turner Brothers commented that the site was “an asset of dubious value, (possibly even a liability).” Former TBA employee and local councillor, Tom Stott, even feared disturbance to the contaminated ground could turn the area into “Rochdale’s Chernobyl.”
Illegal tipping of waste materials
Save Spodden Valley campaigner, Jason Addy, said the current tipping of waste materials was a matter of huge concern for locals, but that little information was forthcoming from Rochdale council.
He added, “Dozens of tipper lorries are entering the site throughout the working week. They leave empty … it appears communication between Rochdale Council and local people has stopped.”
A spokesperson from Rochdale council said the enviro crime unit of the Environment Agency is now involved, and will begin investigations into activities at the site. Locals describe the entire area, including surrounding woodlands, as still highly contaminated by asbestos.
In particular, tree felling by the development company exposed the entrance to a former coalmine shaft, under which it is said hundreds of tonnes of asbestos are dumped.
Is the site now being used as an industrial landfill?
A local resident has estimated there are around “50 mounds of waste strategically scattered throughout the site” and further daily deliveries of waste are taking place. With apparently no public consultation prior to these activities, it’s possible that contamination from a range of toxic materials including asbestos is a danger.
The site’s long and checkered history resulted in a letter being released to the media at the end of 2014, by Rochdale Green Party. They promoted the common view that the area was unsafe for development into housing, and that the contaminated ground should be safely capped and then developed into a country park.
TBA Working Party
A Turner Brothers Asbestos Working Party had also been proposed to keep local residents informed about developments on the site, and discuss key issues, but few meetings led to it being scrapped by the council.
Asbestos awareness is a key element for health and safety when dealing with this scale of contamination. Further dumping on an area already highly toxic not only endangers local people, but also those physically disposing of the waste.