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Highly explosive chemicals were left at liquidated Sandycroft firm

Published date: 12 June 2014 |
Published by: David Humphreys
Read more articles by David Humphreys


 

EXPLOSIVE chemicals found by environmental inspectors at  a factory were equivalent to more than 100 tonnes of TNT.

The substances were found at the site of the former Euticals company in Sandycroft.

The company went into administration last July.

Natural Resources Wales’ team leader for flood risk analysis Richard Weston made the statement during a meeting of Flintshire Council’s environment overview and scrutiny committee yesterday.

When Euticals went into administration it left behind about 4,000 cubic litres of untreated effluent chemicals in bioreactors, as well as tankers full of caustic acid.

Work to clear the site is now complete and the chemicals have been removed.

But Mr Weston said a joint inspection by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Environment Agency Wales in 2012 had found a mass of explosive substances.

“The materials on the site in 2012, which I think were medicines, were equivalent to 100 tonnes of TNT,” he said.

Warning letters from Flintshire Council and Euticals Ltd were sent to nearly 3,000 nearby residents informing them of the situation.

Sandycroft councillor David Wisinger said the extent of the potentially harmful chemicals left at the site was “alarming”.

“It’s very disturbing to hear this but the council had no knowledge of it,” he said. “It wasn’t the responsibility of Flintshire Council to clear it up but the council took it upon itself to do so because of health and safety risks. It’s cost us a lot of money to get it cleared up which we thought we were going to get assistance for. It’s been dealt with very efficiently.”

Taxpayers were left with a bill spiralling into hundreds and thousands of pounds as the council dealt with the site with help from organisations like Natural Resources Wales (NRW).

As well as the TNT comment, Mr Weston said controlled burning was taken out on the site to remove some of the potentially dangerous chemicals and others were taken to a facility in Scotland to be disposed of safely.

Mr Weston added the site in Sandycroft is currently empty and that NRW is working with Flintshire Council to ensure a new buyer is found.

In December 2013, Euticals Ltd and previous site operators Archimica Chemicals Ltd were fined a total of £120,000 after workers at the plant suffered life-changing conditions by being exposed to a poisonous gas.

Euticals admitted allowing chemicals to escape from the site and failing to notify the authorities when it occurred.

A month later councillors were told the local authority was paying £60,000 a month to manage the clean-up of the former Euticals site, which included the removal of potentially harmful chemicals and policing of the site.

Police officers were regularly seen stationed outside the former factory due to the public protection risk.

Paul Wright, team leader, Natural Resources Wales said: “The information on Euticals referred to the situation in 2012 when we first investigated the situation at Sandycroft. The explosive material has since been treated and safely removed from the site.”

Flintshire Council chief executive Colin Everett said last night: “The council had to act to protect the public and to manage and clear the site of accumulated chemical stocks.

“There is no government financial assistance made available to us. Therefore earlier this year we agreed with Crown Estates the transfer of the abandoned site to the council at a nominal value so we can take both responsibility to complete the clearance of the site and recoup most, or all of our costs from its eventual sale.

He said the council is working with other organisations, with tenders to be invited for decommissioning and decontamination of the site.

“At present there remains no immediate risk to the public,” he said.

For more news from across the region visit newsnorthwales.co.uk

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