TL: POISON FACTORY, COALITE UK CHEMICALS
SO: Greenpeace UK (GP)
Keywords: toxics chemicals problems uk europe dioxins food
health greenpeace reports gp /
The Poison Factory: The Story of Coalite Chemicals (GP)
This is the story of Coalite Chemicals, and the worst case of
dioxin contamination ever found in the UK. Dioxin, one of the
most deadly synthetic chemicals known to man, has polluted land,
air and rivers around Coalite’s Derbyshire plant. Farmers were
banned from selling their milk and meat because of the
contamination and there have been health scares among local
residents. But calls for a public inquiry have been thrown out.
The recent decision by Dr David Slater, head of Her Majesty’s
Inspectorate of Pollution (HMIP), to allow the Coalite plant to
continue operating, demonstrates the Government’s failure to
protect the environment.
A new investigation by Greenpeace has revealed that pollution
problems at Coalite’s plant are much worse than HMIP, the
Government watchdogs, have admitted. Greenpeace obtained samples
from inside the plant and discovered that high levels of dioxin
and other toxic pollutants being produced at Coalite have been
ignored by pollution inspectors.
Greenpeace is calling on the Government to shut down the Coalite
Chemicals plant and hold a full public inquiry into the
contamination of the locality. Greenpeace is also pressing
the Government to honour its international commitments to
eliminate deadly chemicals, such as those produced by Coalite,
from the UK environment.
2. Coalite, the factory: Manufacturing and applications.
3. The Greenpeace evidence: Contamination is eight times higher
than reported by the Government’s pollution inspectors.
4. Dioxin in the environment: Dioxin discharges from Coalite
incinerator into the air and local river.
5. Poisoned milk: The Derbyshire farmers banned from selling
milk because of dioxin contamination.
6. Highest levels ever: More dioxin recorded in local milk than
ever before in the UK.
7. Poison river: Dioxin in river downstream from Coalite’s
factory is 2000 times greater than upstream.
8. Symptoms but not the cause: Contamination source is
9. The danger – organochlorines: Deadly dioxins and chlorophenols.
10. A history of pollution: Explosion at Coalite 1968
11. Calls for a public enquiry: Environment minister rejects
calls for a public inquiry.
12. Chemical fire at Coalite: Chemical warehouse containing
2,4,5-T destroyed by a fire in 1986.
13. Effects on health: Health checks reveal contamination.
14. Dioxin diet: Local produce may be contaminated.
15. Cancer clusters: Evidence of cancer clusters.
16. Permit to pollute: Regulatory authorities give Coalite a
license despite history of contamination.
17. Not in breach of law: The government’s view.
18. Failure of the regulatory authorities: The Government bodies
responsible for the protection of the local people and the
environment, fail in their duty.
19. Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food: Failure
20. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Pollution: Fail to protect.
21. National River Authority: Too little too late.
22. Toxic Legacy: Dioxin still remains.
23. Who is to blame? Why has this pollution continued unabated.
24. Who will pay? Who will compensate the victims of the
25. The Company: What will happen if the company go bust?
26. Greenpeace demands
27. Chronology of Events
Appendix 1 Anglo United/Coalite Chemicals Financial Information.
Appendix 2 Coalite Chemicals Products.
Appendix 3 Table shows a comparison between the Greenpeace
sample results and those of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of
Appendix 4 List of chemicals identified in the Greenpeace
1. The Poison Factory summary of findings
ù The following is a dossier on Coalite Chemicals, which exposes
the scandalous history of dioxin contamination from Coalite’s
plant, near Bolsover, Derbyshire.
ù Dioxins are among the most toxic synthetic chemicals known to
man. They are known to cause cancers, genetic defects, increase
the risk of diabetes and reduce sperm counts. Even tiny amounts
can interfere with biological processes. One millionth of a gram
is enough to kill a guinea pig. For more than 25 years Coalite
workers, local people and farmers have been exposed to high
levels of dioxins emanating from this plant.
ù Dioxins are by-products from the production of chlorinated
chemicals, such as chlorophenols which are made at the Coalite
ù Samples taken by Greenpeace prove that the levels of dioxin in
Coalite’s production wastes from the chlorophenols and other
organochlorine processes are eight times higher than those
previously identified by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Pollution
(HMIP), the Government agency responsible for monitoring
ù A study by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(MAFF) in June 1991 revealed that milk from local farms was so
severely contaminated with dioxin, it was unacceptable for
consumption and could no longer be sold. Other MAFF samples
showed that dioxin levels in grass and plants around the factory
were 1000 times higher than the UK average.
ù The NRA reported the highest levels of dioxins ever found in
the UK, in sediments from the River Doe Lea. Levels downstream
from Coalite were 2000 times higher than similar samples taken
from streams feeding the river and 1000 times higher than
ù In spite of these existing high levels of toxic pollution,
HMIP has authorised Coalite to re-open its incinerator, closed
in 1991 when it was found to be leaking dioxins.
ù The Government agencies have failed to recognise the
chlorophenol and organochlorine production processes as the
source of the dioxin contamination around Coalite.
ù By authorising Coalite to continue their operations they have
given the company a licence to contaminate. They have also
compromised the UK Government’s commitment to eliminate dioxins
and other organochlorines from the environment.
ù That the manufacture of chlorophenols and related
organochlorines at the Coalite plant be stopped immediately, and
that the whole plant be investigated to identify the primary
sources of dioxins.
ù That the authorisation of the on-site incinerator be revoked
ù That there be a full and independent public inquiry into the
dioxin contamination around Bolsover, and the Coalite site.
ù That the UK Government immediately acts to prioritise
elimination programmes for organochlorine discharges and
emissions into the environment, in line with its 1992 Paris
2. Coalite, the factory
2.1 The Coalite plant in Shuttlewood, Derbyshire, manufactures
organochlorines and other chemicals including chlorophenols.
Chlorophenols are chlorinated chemicals whose production
provides the ideal conditions for the formation of dioxins and
other organochlorines as byproducts. Dioxins will also be
produced in the manufacture of other chlorinated compounds at
Coalite, though probably in lower concentrations. It is these
processes which are the source of the serious dioxin
contamination of the local area.
2.2 The Coalite plant is divided into two manufacturing areas –
smokeless fuels and chemicals. The smokeless fuels plant
extracts the tar from coal so that it burns more cleanly. The
dioxin contamination problem arises from the chemicals plant
where the coal tars from the smokeless fuels plant are turned
into chlorinated chemicals including the highly toxic
2.3 Coalite Chemicals manufactures a wide range of chemical
intermediates which are used in applications as diverse as
adhesives, biocides, fungicides for crops, wood preservation
chemicals and photographic film (see Appendix 2)
2.4 The production of trichlorophenol (TCP) uses by-products
from the smokeless-fuel process and chlorine bought in from Hays
Chemicals, Sandbach, Cheshire. Coalite are the only manufacturer
of trichlorophenols in the UK. Trichlorophenols are sold on to
other manufacturers for products such as antiseptic and hair
2.5 Workers, residents and farmers have been exposed for over 25
years to high levels of dioxin from this plant, and the
Government authorities responsible for the protection of the
local people and the environment have failed to protect them.
3. The Greenpeace evidence
3.1 New evidence from Greenpeace reveals that the levels of
dioxins produced in wastes from Coalite’s organochlorine and
chlorophenols plants are more than eight times higher than the
very high levels previously identified by Her Majesty’s
Inspectorate of Pollution (HMIP), the regulatory authority
responsible for the Coalite plant.
3.2 In August 1991, HMIP took for dioxin analysis a series of
samples from Coalite’s on site incinerator and samples of the
feed stock, which is made up of the chlorophenol and other
process wastes. Results were published in December 1991. HMlP’s
analysis of the wastes showed that it was dominated by very
large concentrations of dioxins. HMIP found there to be 2.4
parts per million (ppm) of total dioxins in the wastes, although
they appeared to be unconcerned about the significance of this.
3.3 No further results have been released by HMIP. If any
further analysis was done, the results have not been made
public. The feed stock analysis also shows a large number of
other toxic organochlorines, which could have been released
along with the pollutants HMIP found coming from the
incinerator. Yet no one has checked to see if the local land or
farm animals are contaminated with these chemicals.
3.4 In February this year Greenpeace collected samples of the
waste residues from the organochlorine and chlorophenols plants
and the feed stock for the in-house incinerator. Our results
reveal that the feed stock contains extraordinarily high levels
of dioxin. Greenpeace found a concentration of 21.4 ppm of total
dioxin in the feed stock, more than eight times higher than the
very high levels previously reported by HMIP. The concentration
in Greenpeace’s analysis of the feed stock is equivalent to
0.25ppm of 2,3,7,8-TCDD, the most toxic dioxin of them all.
3.5 Figure 1 (omitted here; unscannable) shows a comparison
between HMIP’s samples of the incinerator feed stock and
Greenpeace’s samples. The difference in these analyses
highlights the variability of such wastes. The difference in the
congener profile – the “fingerprint” – of the wastes also
suggests that dioxins are being produced from more than one
source within the Coalite plant. Where complex mixtures of
chemicals are being chlorinated and distilled, as happens at
Coalite, this would be expected.
3.6 The Greenpeace results show that the processes at the plant
are themselves producing extraordinarily high levels of dioxin
and other toxic organochlorines which inevitably will be
escaping into the environment. The incinerator is not the only
route by which dioxins will reach the environment.
3.7 Coalite stores large quantities of waste from the
chlorination and chlorophenols processes on site prior to
As well as the very high levels found in the incinerator feed
stock, Greenpeace results also showed that another tank of
chlorinated wastes contained 87 ppm of total dioxins,
(equivalent to 0.86ppm of 2,3,7,8-TCDD) though this would
probably be diluted before being fed to the incinerator.
Greenpeace calculations suggest that, if filled to capacity, the
two main storage tanks on the site would contain the equivalent
of 1.56 kg of 2,3,7,8-TCDD, the most toxic form of dioxin. One
millionth of one gram of TCDD is sufficient to kill a
guinea-pig. This enormous volume of dioxin is exposed directly
to the environment via the air vents in the tanks, and
evaporation of dioxin and the other poisonous chemicals in these
tanks, could constitute a considerable, but unstudied, source of
contamination. The buildings where these wastes are produced
must also be contaminated and will also be acting as sources of
dioxin into the environment. It is absurd that HMIP has taken
the trouble to investigate the incinerator and to monitor the
air around Coalite, yet apparently has not looked at the
buildings where the dioxins are being created.
3.8 HMIP have made only one analysis of the other
organochlorines which are emitted from this process and have not
assessed the effects they have on the environment.
3.9 The Greenpeace samples of Coalites wastes also showed the
presence of 7 other organochlorines in the incinerator feed
stock, and 11 in the stored wastes (see appendix 4). Many of
these were chlorophenols. Organochlorines are of concern because
they are often persistent, toxic and bioaccumulative and have
been found to disrupt biological systems.
4. Dioxin in the environment
4.1 Any process which produces such a high level of dioxin
contaminated wastes can never be cleaned up by “end of pipe”
technologies such as incineration. Incineration cannot totally
destroy such huge amounts of contaminants but will merely
disperse them into the wider environment. It will also actually
create additional dioxins during the burning of organochlorine
4.2 As a result of the analyses of dioxin emissions from the
incinerator, HMIP closed the incinerator down. However, they did
not investigate any other possible source of dioxins from the
site/ despite the evidence from the samples of the incinerator
feed stock which showed that the manufacturing process itself
was generating extraordinary quantities of dioxins.
5. Poisoned milk
5.1 There have been problems and concerns about the Coalite
operations over the years, but they have been mainly restricted
to the plant premises. In March 1991 a new twist to the Coalite
story began. Gordon and Gladys Rockley, owners of the Woodside
dairy farm near the Coalite plant, received a visit from the
Milk Marketing Board. The Board took a special one-off milk
test. The Rockleys were untroubled they were expert farmers with
nothing to worry about. Or so they thought. Two weeks after the
test was done, MAFF rang them to say there was a problem with
the milk; it was contaminated with dioxin and no more was to be
sold until the problem was sorted out.
5.2 The full extent of the dioxin contamination of the local
food chain emerged a couple of months later in June 1991 when
MAFF announced elevated levels of dioxin in milk in 27
Derbyshire farms. As well as the Rockleys’ Woodside Farm, the
other farm immediately affected was Larch Farm, owned by the
Merkin family. Here too, milk sales came to an abrupt halt. Both
farms are within one kilometre of the Coalite site.
6. Highest levels ever
6.1 In October 1991, MAFF reported that it had discovered the
highest level of dioxins yet found in the UK, in milk from a
third herd of suckling cows at Woodhouse Farm. This farm is even
closer to Coalite than the other two farms.
6.2 Dr Richard Burt of MAFF said the contaminated milk found at
Bolsover “is the highest dioxin level that I have found anywhere
in the country. As far as I know this is the highest that has
ever been recorded”.
6.3 Although MAFF attempted to reassure the local population by
saying that the milk from this farm was not for human
consumption, this ignored the fact that calves had been sold for
human consumption – calves which had been fed on this milk,
transferring the dioxins to their bodies, and therefore into the
meat. MAFF went on to ban the sale of meat from the farm.
7. Poisoned river
7.1 Following the results of HMIP’s sampling in August 1991,
which showed high concentrations of dioxins entering the firm’s
liquid effluent stream via the incinerator’s scrubber – the
National Rivers Authority (NRA) detected dioxins in the site’s
discharge to the River Doe Lea. Yet the permit issued by the NRA
and held by Coalite, does not allow dioxins to be discharged
into the River Doe Lea.
7.2 Levels of dioxin downstream of the plant were 2000 times
higher than peak values found in streams feeding the rivers and
1000 times greater than background levels.
7.3 Sediment analysis showed that the dioxin contamination
extended many miles beyond the Doe Lea’s confluence with the
Rother downstream of the Coalite discharge. Coalite is legally
allowed to discharge 208 million gallons of toxic effluent
containing cyanide and chloroform every year into the Doe Lea.
But the firm does not have consent to discharge dioxins or
7.4 The NRA says that as a result of Coalite’s discharge,
dioxins are likely to be deposited on farm land down river as
both the Rother and the Don, which meets the Rother at
Rotherham, are prone to flooding.
7.5 None of the areas affected by flooding, many of which
support dairy farming, have been tested for dioxin
8. Symptoms but not the cause
8.1 In December 1992, MAFF brought out its third report on
studies of dioxins in Derbyshire. The results showed that dioxin
levels in the soil remained high. However, there was a decline
in dioxin concentrations in the milk from all three farms since
the autumn of 1991, though the milk on the beef farm was still
above the Maximum Tolerable Concentration (MTC) for human
Dioxin levels in beef and offal from the farm nearest the
Coalite plant had also dropped. However, in a further report of
studies on dioxins in Derbyshire published by MAFF in 1992, they
indicated this was solely because the animals had been kept on
a dioxin free diet. Undoubtedly if they had been allowed to
graze in the contaminated fields, the contamination would not
have dropped so dramatically.
8.2 On 16 December 1992, MAFF announced that the order banning
the movement of animals and produce from Woodside Farm was being
lifted, while the other two farms were able to resume selling
8.3 The lifting of the ban on sale of milk and animal produce
was welcome news for the farmers but it again highlighted the
Government’s concern only to address the symptoms rather than
the cause of the dioxin contamination. The milk may have been
cleaned up sufficiently to suit the milk marketing board, but
the land is still contaminated and the source of the
contamination remains undetected by HMIP.
9. The danger – organochlorines
9.1 Organochlorines are compounds created by reacting chlorine
with organic (carbon-containing) molecules. Eleven thousand of
these chemicals are now in use, and virtually all of them are
foreign to nature; few are produced in large quantities by
natural processes, as a result there are few pathways by which
they are degraded once they enter the environment. They are also
resistant to chemical attack which leads to their long
persistence in natural systems, and together with their often
high toxicities and their tendency to accumulate in animal
tissue, this has rightly earned them a reputation of being
amongst the most serious environmental pollutants. Included
among the organochlorines are some of the most notorious
industrial poisons and pollutants ever produced, including DDT,
PCB’s, CFC’s, dieldrin and dioxin.
9.1 In 1990, the World Health Organisation and the UK Government
relaxed their dioxin limits, but it seems that they were
premature – dioxin is at least as dangerous as previously
Latest information on dioxins comes from the USA. Following
ongoing debates over the toxicity of dioxin, Dr Kenneth Olden,
director of the National Institute of Environmental Health
Services in the USA, announced on June 23rd this year:
“I’ve reviewed the data thoroughly, and I’m not aware of any new
scientific studies that suggest it is not as dangerous as we
thought it was.”
Dr George Lucier, a world-leading dioxin expert based at the
institute echoed these concerns saying that:
“Not only is dioxin a carcinogen, but new evidence says it also
increases the risk of diabetes, reduces sperm count and can
cause defects by disrupting the normal workings of human cells.
I would say that concerns about environmental levels of dioxin
have not been diminished by recent scientific evidence.”
9.3 The term “dioxin” is commonly used to refer to a group of
210 chemicals called the polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and
the polychlorinated dibenzofurans. None of these compounds are
made deliberately, but arise as by-products of processes
involving chlorinated chemicals. These include the manufacture
of chlorine itself, paper bleaching with chlorine, the
manufacture of numerous pesticides and chlorinated chemicals,
and the incineration of chlorine-containing wastes. The
production of chemicals such as trichlorophenol and many of the
other organochlorine compounds produced by Coalite, has been
highlighted as a major source.
9.4 The dioxin group includes 2,3,7,8-TCDD, which is probably
the most toxic and carcinogenic synthetic chemical ever tested
in the laboratory. Infinitesimal quantities of TCDD can rapidly
kill some laboratory animals; for instance, one millionth of one
gram is sufficient to kill a guinea-pig. Longer-term exposure to
concentrations too low to be immediately fatal have been
associated with a wide range of pathological effects in animals
and humans. Elevated levels of a number of cancers, and
neurological, immunological and reproductive problems have been
reported in groups of people occupationally and accidentally
exposed to TCDD contaminated chemicals.
9.5 In animal tests, tiny amounts of dioxin have been shown to
disrupt the immune and reproductive systems. It has been found
to permanently affect the sexual development in male mice
exposed before birth. It has recently been suggested that
environmental exposure to dioxins and similar chemicals could be
causing, or contributing to, the declining sperm counts and
rising incidence of reproductive abnormalities found in the
human male populations in industrialised countries. A leading
dioxin specialist in the US has recently commented that levels
of dioxin of 50 parts per trillion found in humans are a cause
for concern. This is equivalent to 1 breath in the lives of over
9.6 Chlorophenols are used directly as biocides or as
intermediates in the generation of pesticides and dyes. Much of
the concern over their use and production has been concentrated
on the possibility of contamination with highly poisonous
dioxins. However, even if they could be produced with no by-
products, there would still be cause for concern, since
chlorophenols themselves display a wide range of toxic effects,
and may be persistent, bioaccumulating pollutants, which under
certain conditions can remain undegraded in the environment for
9.7 Reproductive malfunctions and cancer are among the effects
recorded from rodents experimentally exposed to chlorophenols.
A range of cancers in humans, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,
soft-tissue sarcomas and skin cancer have been associated with
occupational exposure, and also with drinking water polluted
with chlorophenols. The most toxic chlorophenol which was found
in the Coalite feed stock is pentachlorophenol (PCP). Even the
minute background levels of this chemical, to which we are all
exposed, may pose a serious risk to health. The evidence for the
detrimental health and environmental effects has led to a
complete ban of PCP in Switzerland, Denmark, Germany and Sweden,
and to calls for its removal worldwide.
9.8 Many of the other products and wastes from Coalite Chemicals
must also be expected to be toxic and long lasting in the
environment. Yet, the company and the Government have not
investigated their concentrations or effects. This is a serious
oversight and means that workers and local people may be being
exposed to many more toxic chemicals than they know.
10. A history of pollution: explosion at Coalite 1968
10.1 In the late 1960s, Coalite operated a process for the
manufacture of 2,4,5-T, one of the active ingredients in Agent
Orange, used as a defoliant in the Vietnam war. Production of
2,4,5-T began at Coalite in 1965. The process used was similar
to one operated by the Icmesa chemical plant at Seveso, Italy.
10.2 In 1968, an explosion at Coalite’s 2,4,5-T plant killed one
worker and exposed many more to high concentrations of dioxin.
According to a report by Derbyshire County Council, at least 39
grams of 2,3,7,8-TCDD, the most toxic form of dioxin, was
released. This is equivalent to over 108 billion times the US
Environmental Protection Agency’s tolerable daily intake for
2,3,7,8-TCDD, for an average adult human.
10.3 Within a few months 79 workers had developed chloracne, a
skin disease and the classic symptom of dioxin poisoning. The
dioxin-contaminated debris from the plant was buried under a
local open cast mine. Coalite’s management refused to tell local
councillors or local people the exact location of the
contaminated wastes saying that the wastes posed no danger to
anyone. It was not until twelve years later that a local
tribunal revealed the location: Morton, a small town between
Matlock and Mansfield, some 10 miles south of Coalite.
After a clean up at the plant, production was resumed in 1969.
Coalite admitted in 1971 that the trichlorophenol being produced
then contained approaching 1 ppm of dioxin – a huge
1.4 In July 1976, the Icmesa chemical plant at Seveso in Italy
exploded, spilling a cloud of toxic chemicals over the
residential area nearby. 70,000 animals died or were
slaughtered. The health of 30,000 people was put at risk and
over 700 citizens were permanently evacuated. The Icmesa plant,
like Coalite, produced trichlorophenol (TCP) and 2,4,5-T.
10.5 Local concern about the impact of the Coalite explosion, in
the wake of the Seveso disaster in 1976, led to requests for a
public inquiry. These requests for more information on Coalite’s
operations have been constantly thwarted.
10.6 However, Coalite was finally forced to cease 2,4,5-T
production in 1976 after the Seveso incident, when the company’s
employees refused to resume work at the plant. Nevertheless, the
company continues to manufacture other trichlorophenols (TCP) on
11. Request for a public enquiry
11.1 In 1982, the then Environment Minister, Michael Heseltine,
rejected calls for a public inquiry in favour of continued
monitoring of the plant. This is what HMIP have supposedly been
doing for the past 8 years. If the aim was to protect the local
people and the environment it must be obvious even from their
own results that they have failed in their task. The dioxin
contamination of the local milk was discovered only when MAFF
analysed milk samples. In 1991 the contamination of the river
and local land also went unnoticed.
12. Chemical fire at Coalite
12.1 A major fire at the plant in 1986 destroyed an on-site
chemical warehouse. The company claimed there were no dangerous
chemicals in the warehouse. However, it was revealed after
several weeks that a third of a ton of 2,4,5-T had been
destroyed in the fire. Not only would the 2,4,5-T have been in
all likelihood contaminated with dioxin, but the uncontrolled
combustion of 2,4,5-T would have generated the conditions for
the creation of high levels of dioxin. The blaze at Coalite
would have distributed these high levels of dioxins and other
toxic pollutants around the local area. Local people would have
been exposed to these high levels during and after the fire.
Neither local people nor fireman were informed about the
12.2 A report by the Derbyshire Fire Brigades Union makes clear
Coalite’s irresponsibility: The report states that the
information supplied to the fire crew by the company
“did not indicate any substance that was particularly hazardous
and the crews fought the fire believing that the chemist from
the firm had given them all the information they needed for
their safety..it was only later the next month that evidence was
obtained that 2,4,5-T was present.”
12.3 All fire fighters inhaled fumes during the fire. They also
had to cope with large quantities of contaminated, slurry-like
water, three to four inches deep. One fire fighter felt it
necessary to fetch a pallet to stand on as his feet were
“At no time were personnel instructed to wear rubber boots as
opposed to leathers, nor were instructions given to ensure that
equipment and appliances were decontaminated safely.”
Several fire fighters had to undergo hospital treatment as a
consequence of their exposure to fumes from the fire. Others
complained of headaches, tight chest, nausea, coughing,
breathlessness, and irritations to eyes and skin.
12.4 Coalite has stated that it believes the dioxin
contamination in the area to be a result of the fire at the
plant in 1986. However, it is clear from the fact that high
levels of dioxin have been found on the grass, (which takes up
virtually no dioxin from the soil) and in the top 5 centimetres
of soil, that the deposition must be of recent origin and cannot
be explained by past incidents alone.
13. Effects on health
Throughout Coalite’s history, the regulatory authorities and the
company itself have failed to take action to prevent or
adequately assess damage to the health of workers and local
13.1 Despite the severity of the 1968 explosion in the 2,4,5-T
plant on 23 April 1968, the subsequent health effects on the
workers involved have never been properly followed up. Coalite’s
failure to investigate the effect of the explosion on the
workers or on local people was highly irresponsible. The
toxicity of dioxin was well-established by 1961 and before the
Coalite explosion there had been other “incidents” at similar
13.2 Following the explosion, 79 employees were shown to have
symptoms of chloracne. At the time of the explosion, Coalite
treated the affected men for the chloracne and carried out some
tests on the workers. These tests have since been criticised by
outside doctors who have become involved as “crude, insensitive
and outmoded”. In addition, the tests were not described in
sufficient detail to backup Coalite’s claim that liver function
in the workers had returned to “practically normal” two weeks
after the explosion. Coalite refused to release the results of
its own tests.
13.3 It was not until TEN YEARS AFTER THE 1968 EXPLOSION that
any attempt was made to conduct a detailed clinical study of
exposed workers’ health. This was a study commissioned by
Coalite following pressure from the Health and Safety Executive.
Dr Martin, then Consultant Clinical Pathologist at Chesterfield
Hospital organised the 1978 study. From the original group of 79
workers who developed chloracne only 41 were still working at
Coalite at the time of the 1978 study. No attempt was made to
trace the 38 who had left or to assess the exposed group as a
13.4 When Dr Martin’s study was complete, Coalite chose only to
release an abbreviated summary of the study, dated November
1978. This report was made available to the trade unions in
February 1979. This abridged report was totally different in its
findings to the original study: it said that there were no
statistically significant differences between the dioxin-exposed
group and the non-exposed group. This was not the case.
13.5 In fact, Dr Martin’s report suggested that Coalite may have
been falsely reassuring about the health of its workers involved
in the 1968 explosion. She had found that workers exposed to
dioxin following the explosion in 1968 could face an increased
risk of developing cardiovascular complaints and she detected a
greater incidence of impaired liver function in the exposed
workers. Dr Martin also noted metabolic differences between the
groups, with the “most abnormal” being the dioxin-exposed group.
13.6 The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said at the time of
the explosion, that they were satisfied the Coalite workers had
not been unduly affected by their exposure to dioxin. However,
as HSE never saw the full results of the clinical investigations
and have admitted that they were bound to rely on the good faith
of the company, their judgement does not inspire confidence. The
HSE failed to check the whole range of test results – despite
the fact that Dr Martin says they were informed of the
discrepancies between the company’s summary and her original
13.7 Dr Martin later discovered that there were serious flaws in
the way that control groups had been set up by Coalite for use
in her original study. So she arranged to re-examine eight of
the Coalite workers suffering from chloracne and to compare
their blood chemistry with a properly matched control group. The
results of this study were published in a letter to the Lancet.
They show the abnormalities noticed in her original study to a
more pronounced degree.
13.8 Shortly after Dr Martin’s letter was published in the
Lancet, her house was broken into. Detailed medical records of
eight Coalite workers used in her study were removed. Martin had
no duplicate copies of the records so the work and the medical
records of the exposed men were lost forever.
13.9 No further follow up studies have yet been carried out to
examine the true impact of exposure to dioxin in the workers at
Coalite. This failure is even more serious in the light of the
studies on 1,583 workers at the Boehringer plant in Germany,
published in The Lancet in 1991.
13.10 The Boehringer plant, like Coalite, also used to
manufacture 2,4,5-T as well as trichlorophenol (TCP). Cancer
mortality increased among men who had worked at the plant for 20
years or more and there was increased risk of breast cancer
mortality among women. The plant has now been closed down.
13.11 Contaminated blood: In July 1992, members of the Gillies
family, owners of Woodhouse farm, the farm nearest to the
Coalite plant, were found to have dioxins in their blood at up
to seven times the normal levels. The family have consumed milk
from their own cows over several years. Five members of the
family had blood tests organised by the North Derbyshire Health
Authority in May 1992, ten months after they stopped drinking
the milk from their farm.
13.12 Nothing to worry about: The Department of Health has
failed to respond to questions about what it regards as an
acceptable blood dioxin level. Furthermore, no tests have been
done on the local population.
14. Dioxin Diet
14.1 The village of Shuttlewood is about 1.5 km from the Coalite
plant. Woodside Farm and Larch Farm, the two farms which have
been found to have high levels of dioxin in cows’ milk, are
within 1 kilometre of the Coalite plant. Woodhouse Farm, where
meat had to be withdrawn from sale, is closer to the works than
the other farms. All the farms lie in directions and at a
distance where maximum deposition would be expected according to
HMIP’s modelling of the incinerator stack gas. The village of
Shuttlewood lies between the farms.
14.2 Many local people get a large part of their food intake
from allotments which are nearly as close to the plant as the
Food such as lettuces, spinach, potatoes and fruit from these
allotments have never been tested for dioxins. However, they are
at least as likely to be as contaminated as plants from local
farms or as contaminated as the grass the cows are eating.
14.3 Again the regulatory authorities have failed to act:
ù Neither MAFF nor the Department of the Environment have taken
any samples of vegetables from the allotments.
ù MAFF has stated “it is unlikely that vegetables would pose any
hazard to consumers provided that they are washed or peeled as
appropriate in the normal manner.” However since they have taken
no samples from these allotments to test the truth of this
assertion, their official reassurance should be treated with
ù Although HMIP have taken soil and dust samples from in and
around the village, the results have not been published. The
results were due for publication in the Autumn of 1992.
14.4 If local fruit and vegetables are contaminated to anything
like the same extent as the samples of herbage from the
contaminated farms, a Shuttlewood resident eating local fruit
and vegetables, but with an average intake of other foods, could
easily be consuming levels of dioxin well above the UK Tolerable
Daily Intake recommended for dioxins.
14.5 MAFF are also ignoring the fact that dioxins can be
absorbed through the skin, so if the soil is contaminated there
is also a risk of exposure from simply working on the
15. Cancer clusters
15.1 There is evidence of elevated levels of some types of
cancer in the local area. In particular, excess cases of breast
and lymphoid cancers have been reported.
15.2 No work has been done by the local health authority or the
Department of Health to examine the underlying causes of these
patterns. Given the increased cancer risks that exposure to
dioxins and other organochlorines is known to entail, reports of
higher rates in the area are cause for concern. No work has been
done to investigate any other health effects which could be a
result of exposure to dioxins and other chemicals, for example,
16. Permit to pollute
16.1 Following changes brought about by the 1990 Environmental
Protection Act and the adoption of Integrated Pollution Control
(IPC), Coalite has had to apply to HMIP this year for
authorisation to continue to operate its processes.
16.2 All the authorisations which the company has sought have
been granted, despite protest. Coalite’s incinerator application
generated considerable local opposition. Over 2,000 people
signed a petition against the re-opening of the incinerator. The
evidence submitted by Coalite in their application for
authorisation of the redesigned incineration plant would have
been wholly inadequate for a new incinerator going through the
normal planning process. Nevertheless, on 30th April 1993, HMIP
authorised Coalite’s incinerator without announcing this to
local people or their parliamentary representatives. Additional
authorisations have followed – for a distillation process and
for a carbonisation process. Because the key problem of the
dioxin contamination in the process has not been dealt with,
this will mean that the cycle of pollution will begin all over
16.3 Before the end of 1993, Coalite will also have to apply to
continue operation of its chlorophenol process – one of the main
sources of dioxin contamination. HMIP must now take action to
protect the environment and refuse the company permission to
operate the chlorophenols process, the cause of the
16.4 HMIP authorised the incinerator despite having failed to
identify the ultimate source of the dioxin contamination. The
Inspectorate also failed to take into account the impact of more
dioxin emissions on a human and animal population which has
already been exposed to high levels of contamination for many
years. It makes no sense to consider the means of disposal of
highly toxic wastes before considering whether it is necessary
to produce these wastes in the first place. This is one of the
intrinsic flaws of the IPC system. Under the current timetable
for the introduction of IPC, in-house incinerators are being
licensed in isolation from the processes which generate the
wastes they are licensed to burn.
16.5 Bearing in mind the nature of the wastes produced during
the production process, the application for Coalite’s on-site
incinerator should have been postponed so as to be considered
alongside its authorisation for the manufacture and use of
organic chemicals which create the wastes.
16.6 Coalite’s application for the incinerator included details
which showed that chlorophenols alone make up as much as 83% by
weight of the chlorinated feed stock residues. As we have seen,
all samples taken have shown a high degree of dioxin
contamination. Coalite was unable to explain to the satisfaction
of those who were opposed to its application how, given such
contaminated feed stock, it was going to prevent dioxin
emissions from the incinerator operation.
16.7 Coalite also stated in their application: “The impact on
the environment of dioxins and furans is considered the only
cause for concern and no plans are currently contemplated for
monitoring other components of the aerial emissions in the local
environment”. Considering the toxicity of some of the components
of the waste stream, this is an incredible statement; equally
unbelievable is the fact that HMIP, in granting the application,
appear to be endorsing the operation with no requirement for it
to meet particular standards.
16.8 Since no incinerator totally destroys the waste fed to it,
some of the dioxins will pass through the combustion chambers
unchanged. Also, the highly chlorinated nature of the waste
provides ideal conditions for the formation of more dioxin,
through reactions taking place after the gases have left the
combustion chambers. Even if some of these dioxins can be
collected by the pollution control devices, they will be emitted
in the scrubber effluent water which is discharged via the
biological treatment plant to the already contaminated River Doe
Lea. Other filters, which will again be highly contaminated,
could end up in landfill sites, posing a threat even further
16.9 At no point is Coalite required to undertake a detailed
waste audit of its plants. By comparison, companies in the U.S.
are required by law to undertake a complete toxic release
inventory which is available to the public in an easily
accessible form. All emissions from plants in the US of 313
listed dangerous chemicals, whether they are intentional or
fugitive, must be accounted for. It is only with the
introduction of similar legislation in the UK that companies and
regulators, as well as the public, will begin to have an idea of
the types and quantities of chemicals currently being discharged
into the environment. At present Coalite, in common with other
UK companies, do not know exactly what they are discharging into
the environment or in what quantities. How can the Government
expect to protect the UK people and the environment, let alone
meet international agreements, when this type of information is
not available and no one has any idea of what the figures may
17. Not in breach of law
Government Legislation, International Commitments and Broken
17.1 The Government’s failure to protect the environment and
local population from pollution is revealed by the scandal of
Coalite’s dioxin production. The law is ambiguous with regard to
discharging chemicals which aren’t specified on a company’s
permit to discharge. The government has said Coalite is
responsible for dioxin pollution but “is not in breach of the
law in the manner in which it has operated the incinerator”. If
this is the case then the government is failing in its duty to
protect the environment and Coalite appear to be taking
advantage of a loophole in the law. Coalite holds no permit to
allow it to discharge dioxins into the environment.
17.2 By allowing Coalite Chemicals to continue its polluting
processes, HMIP has given the all-clear to the continuation of
a large UK source of dioxins and other organochlorines. This
compromises the Government’s ability to fulfil its commitment,
under international agreements, to eliminate organochlorines.
Under these agreements the Government is contracted to eliminate
organochlorines, including dioxins and other toxic persistent
chemicals such as chlorophenol.
17.3 The UK Government is a signatory to the Paris Commission
(PARCOM). The Paris Commission is the Convention for the
Prevention of Marine Pollution from Land Based Sources. In
September last year, UK Environment Ministers, along with
ministers from 14 other countries around the North East
Atlantic, agreed to reduce, with the aim of elimination, the
discharge of organochlorines, (including dioxins), and other
toxic and bio-accumulative chemicals, into the marine
environment by the year 2000. This convention covers pollution
from land, and includes atmospheric and river pollution.
17.4 In addition, the 1990 Ministerial Conference on the North
Sea set a target of at least 70% reduction by 1995 for dioxin,
mercury, lead and cadmium entering the North Sea.
17.5 By allowing the Coalite incineration plant to continue to
burn the wastes from the organochlorine production process, and
by allowing the continuation of the organochlorine production
itself, the Government is reneging on its own international
17.6 Greenpeace is calling on the UK Government not only to shut
down the chlorophenols process at Coalite and to hold a full
public inquiry into the contamination of the area with dioxins
and other organochlorines, but to initiate a timetable to phase
out organochlorines from the UK environment.
18. Failure of the Authorities
18.1 The statutory authorities have failed in their obligations
to protect the local environment, workers, farmers and
ù The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) waited 10 years before
it suggested to Coalite that it should investigate the health
consequences of the 1968 explosion. Despite the unsatisfactory
nature of the study, HSE said they were satisfied the workers
had not been unduly affected, even though they hadn’t seen the
full results of the investigation.
ù The local health authority, North Derbyshire County Council
has never carried out a health survey of the local people living
just 1.5 kilo metres from the plant, despite the evidence of the
dioxin contamination. Nor has the Department of Health taken the
lead in investigating the health of local people.
ù Severn Trent Water Authority and Derbyshire County Council
refused to reveal the whereabouts of the toxic waste buried by
Coalite after the 1968 explosion.
ù The old Industrial Air Pollution Inspectorate (IAPI),
predecessors of HMIP, stated each year in their district annual
reports that the Coalite incinerator “continues to work well”
and that the chlorinated hydrocarbon wastes were “destroyed and
unable to contaminate the environment”. This was obviously not
More recently, other Government bodies have been “economical
with the truth”.
19. MAFF’s failure:
19.1 In 1989, the Government set a guideline level for human
exposure to dioxin. It was the most stringent guideline set by
the UK for any substance, though still one of the less stringent
of guideline levels in force internationally. It was expressed
in terms of a Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) which is an estimate
of the amount of a contaminant which a person can ingest daily
over a lifetime without appreciable health risk.
19.2 However, following MAFF’s discovery in June 1991, of highly
elevated levels of dioxin in milk in Derbyshire, the Ministry
raised the guideline level for dioxin by a factor of ten. This
meant that only 2 of the 27 milk samples taken from all over
Derbyshire were over the new recommended daily limit – both
these farms were close to the Coalite plant.
19.3 Had the earlier trigger value been used, most of the
Derbyshire dairy and retail samples, and all of the Bolsover
farm samples, would have been above the limit. MAFF argued that
the relaxation in the TDI merely reflected a new World Health
Organisation (WHO) recommendation the previous year. Strange
then, that they had made no previous announcement of their
change of policy. The revised level had not been ratified and
had no regulatory status.
19.4 It seems clear that by adopting a less stringent policy on
“tolerable” levels of dioxins in food, MAFF were able to defuse
a potentially explosive situation. The TDI was also based on the
assumption that dioxin does not cause cancer in humans – now a
rather outdated idea.
19.5 Following the discovery of the dioxin contaminated milk in
the spring of 1991, MAFF undertook sampling of animal tissue,
(fat and liver), soil and herbage in the area of the Coalite
plant. MAFF was “economical with the truth” in the way in which
it released the results of those tests to the media and to the
19.6 MAFF presented the results of its tests on animal tissue,
soil etc in such a way as to prevent the various types of sample
being compared directly by calculating the results in a variety
of ways but not releasing the congener specific analysis which
is needed to convert results from one form to another. MAFF was
asked why only selected figures from the MAFF reports had been
released. Their reply was evasive:
“A sufficient number of samples has been analysed to enable MAFF
to establish the level of contamination in food products from
the affected farms and to take the action necessary to safeguard
the public food supply.”
20. HMIP’s failure
20.1 HMIP have been responsible for monitoring air pollution
from the Coalite site since the demise of the old Industrial Air
Pollution Inspectorate. HMIP inspectors must have visited the
site on a routine basis. But no concerns about the plant, its
production processes or its wastes were made public.
20.2 HMIP must have known of the dioxin contamination, at the
same time as MAFF in March 1991. Yet it was another 8 months
before HMIP got Coalite to close down the incinerator. HMIP
should have closed down the incinerator as a precaution until
the ultimate source of contamination was discovered in order to
protect local people, the environment and the food chain.
20.3 HMIP had identified extremely high levels of dioxins in the
feed stock for the incinerator. These results would have
strongly suggested that the incinerator was not the primary
source of dioxin emissions from the factory, yet no action has
been taken to close down those parts of the operation where the
dioxins were being manufactured. No further analysis of the feed
stock, nor any from the other possible contamination sources
within the plant have been published.
20.4 HMIP later carried out soil sampling around the plant after
their first investigations into the emissions of dioxins and
furans from the incinerator found high level emissions. The
tests were carried out in early 1992 and were supposed to be
published in the Autumn.
20.5 HMIPs soil samples, if they prove Coalite is the source,
could undoubtedly provide good evidence for many of the current
compensation cases and should be a matter of public concern.
However at the time this report was written these results had
still not been published.
21.National Rivers Authority: Too little too late
21.1 Sixteen months after the MAFF banned sales of milk from
farms near Bolsover, the National Rivers Authority (NRA)
announced that it was taking civil action in the courts against
Coalite Chemicals for the dioxin contamination of the River Doe
21.2 The NRA, who are responsible for maintaining the water
quality of the Doe Lea and the Rother, are taking civil action
against Coalite Chemicals in order to force the company to pay
for the removal and disposal of the dioxin contaminated
sediments of the River Doe Lea. The cost of this operation in
the Doe Lea alone has been provisionally estimated by the NRA at
about œ1 million, although this is inevitably a gross
underestimate of the true cost of such a clean up. The NRA’s
analyses have shown virtually no dioxin contamination upstream
of Coalite Chemicals’ outfall to the Doe Lea, but substantial
contamination downstream, implicating Coalite as the responsible
party for this contamination.
21.3 This final move by the NRA to initiate court action,
although welcome, comes too late. Coalite have been breaking the
law by failing their consent regularly over the past few years.
Since 1991 the NRA public register data shows that Coalite have
broken the law on the amounts of chemicals they are legally
allowed to discharge at least 7 times, yet the NRA failed to
prosecute the company on any of these occasions. The NRA’s own
monitoring data shows that Coalite discharged chlorophenols
without a consent, yet they still took no action, ignoring the
danger signs indicating that dioxins may have been present.
21.4 The discharge from Coalite Chemicals has downgraded the Doe
Lea from a class 3 river to class 4 river. This means that the
river has deteriorated from one which is of “poor quality”,
which is polluted to the extent that fish are absent or present
sporadically, to a class 4 river, one of “bad quality”. Yet, the
NRA took no action to rectify this situation or to alter
Coalite’s consent to discharge. Coalite’s consent covers only
the effluent from coke and chemical production and does not
explicitly sanction the discharge of incinerator scrubber
liquor, which is the effluent which contains the high
concentrations of dioxins, or control the discharge of dioxins.
22.1 Despite reduced levels of dioxin contamination in herbage
and milk since the closure of the incinerator, there is still
highly elevated contamination in the soil surrounding the plant.
22.2 The River Doe Lea also remains contaminated both at the
site’s discharge and for many miles beyond the Doe Lea’s
confluence with the Rother.
22.3 Because dioxin is passed from mother to child both before
birth and during breast feeding, this contamination in and
around Coalite may be passed on to future generations. The
continued operation of the organochlorine and chlorophenols
processes and the incinerator suggest that the future may be as
bleak as the past.
23. Who is to blame?
23.1 During a parliamentary debate, Dennis Skinner, MP for
Bolsover, claimed that, at a meeting between MAFF and a
delegation from Bolsover, “one of the Ministry’s officials told
the 20 people who were around the table that he believed Coalite
was to blame for the dioxin contamination. The next hour of the
meeting was spent trying to cover up for that statement.”
23.2 The issue of blame is extremely important because the
Government says that it is the polluter who must pay for the
consequences of its pollution and any ensuing clean-up. However
until Government agencies identify the source of the
contamination, the problem of who will pay for the past, present
and future legacies of this pollution cannot be resolved.
24. Who will pay for the pollution?
24.1 The three farmers affected in the Bolsover district are
seeking compensation from Coalite for the loss of their
livelihoods, acting through the National Farmers Union.
24.2 Although the government claims to have adopted a polluter-
pays policy, it is left to the aggrieved party to take action.
This system does not work in practise since individuals rarely
have the resources to take on multi-million pound chemical
companies in court battles which last for months or years.
24.3 In this instance, it is particularly difficult for the
farmers to prove their case because the Government has not
pointed to any single source of the dioxin pollution, even
though they have admitted that Coalite is at least partly
responsible. HMIP have calculated that, based on their results
and unpublished research by MAFF, emissions from the incinerator
probably account for only “a part” of the dioxins in milk.
However, the Inspectorate has not studied the potential for
contamination from the chlorination and distillation processes.
25. Company news – Coalite’s parent
25.1 Until the company was bought by Anglo United in 1989, the
chairman was Eric Varley, now Lord Varley, an ex-Labour cabinet
minister. Since this takeover, the company would seem to be in
some financial trouble with large debts. James Capel & Company,
city analysts, have commented:
“Whilst recognising the concerns of the banks, we would however
doubt whether this reconstruction will prove more than a
The company, it would seem, needs cash – “an asset that the
company simply doesn’t have and that the banks will almost
certainly remain reluctant to provide.”
25.2 Pollution liabilities are usually covered by environmental
liability insurance. It is not clear whether Anglo United have
this insurance and to what extent. If they have no insurance or
not enough, who will pay?
25.3 Polluter takes all: If Anglo United are in such dire
financial state as is indicated by James Capel, who is going to
be liable for compensating the farmers and cleaning up the local
environment? So far, it is not the polluter who pays but those
who live and work nearby who pay with their health and their
26. Greenpeace demands
ù That the authorisation of the on-site incinerator be revoked
ù That the manufacture of chlorophenols and related
organochlorines at the Coalite plant be stopped immediately and
that the whole plant be investigated to identify the primary
sources of dioxins.
ù That contamination of the Coalite Chemicals site, indoors and
out, be investigated and all results be publicly available.
ù There should be a full public inquiry into the dioxin
contamination around Bolsover.
ù That the Government amends its current policy of “polluter
pays” and takes action to identify unequivocally the source of
the pollution and ensure immediate compensation for the victims.
The Government should amend its policy to allow interim support
of victims of pollution through Government funds, which can then
be recovered from the responsible party once identified.
ù The UK Government implements legislation to prioritise
elimination programmes for organochlorine discharges and
emissions into the environment in line with the 1992 Paris
ù Full investigation of the identity, concentration and toxicity
of other pollutants being emitted from Coalites premises.
ù Full clean-up of the Coalite site and the surrounding area.
ù Coalite and the regulatory authorities release all analytical
data currently not available to the public for whatever reason.
ù A full investigation of human health and human dioxin
contamination be carried out for the exposed populations.
ù The site at Morton where Coalite dumped contaminated waste be
27. Chronology of events
1965 Coalite and Products Company starts producing
trichlorophenol at the Shuttlewood plant, in
Derbyshire – in order to make the herbicide
23 April 1968 Explosion at Coalite chlorophenols plant – 1 man
dies, 79 workers develop chloracne
Dioxin contaminated debris from site buried at
Feb 1971 Two pipe fitters working at the plant on a new
building with new materials, well away from the
site of the explosion, contract chloracne.
(source: The Superpoison, 1980)
June 1971 Four year old son of one of the pipe-fitters and
wife of another also contracted chloracne.
1976 – July 10 Explosion at ICMESA, Seveso in Italy. Evacuation
of local population.
Derbyshire County Council asks for whereabouts
of buried debris from 1968 fire to be disclosed.
Permission effectively refused with the
assurance that the waste was safe if it remained
Coalite’s on-site incinerator comes on stream.
2,4,5-T plant closes down.
1980 Information on location of buried debris refused
1981 Derbyshire CC Tribunal pinpoints location of
explosion debris as open cast mine workings in
1 April 1982 Environment Secretary Michael Heseltine rejects
recommendations from an independent tribunal for
a public inquiry into potential dioxin pollution
from waste produced at Coalite.
24 July 1986 Fire in chemical warehouse containing 7 cwts
(1/3 ton) of 2,4,5,T; firemen only informed one
month after fighting blaze of presence of this
1989 Coalite PLC bought out by Anglo United PLC after
a well-publicised struggle.
Dennis Skinner raises question of breast cancer
cluster in Bolsover area – confirmed by North
Derbyshire Health Authority.
1990 Breast cancer cluster in Bolsover area
confirmed again – and promises of investigation
by North Derbyshire Health Authority
April 1991 MAFF finds high levels of dioxin in milk from
26 June 1991 MAFF publicly releases information on high
levels of dioxin found in milk from two farms
near the Coalite plant. The sale of the milk is
August 1991 HMIP carries out sampling for dioxin from
Coalite’s incinerator stack. Work carried out by
Harwell Laboratory; published Dec 1991.
2 Oct 1991 MAFF finds highest levels of dioxin so far in
milk from third farm, near to the Coalite plant.
Oct 1991 NRA sediment samples from River Doe Lea, below
Coalite site show dioxin levels more than
1000 times background levels.
Nov 1991 Publication of HMlPs report which confirms that
Coalite incinerator is at least “partly
responsible for dioxin contamination in milk ”
HMIP closes down Coalite’s hazardous waste
incinerator for upgrading.
Nov 1991 Tony Baldry confirms that Dept of Health will
study claims that there is a high level of
breast cancer in the Bolsover area.
Feb 1992 Harwell laboratories take soil samples for
analysis. Results due summer 1992.
20 March 1992 MAFF releases results of further testing of
dioxins in soil samples and meat
28 May 1992 MAFF release additional sample results of
dioxins in herbage, showing levels 1,000 times
higher than UK background levels.
June 1992 Seven times the normal level of dioxins found in
blood of farmers’s family (whose milk had
been withdrawn from sale.)
NRA announce a prosecution of Coalite for
pollution of River Doe Lea.
July 1992 40 herbage samples went missing from MAFF.
When these sample were found they had
deteriorated so much that it was decided not to
MAFF say they have collected more samples from
all farms, and that the results will be
published in due course.
December 1992 Third Report of Studies on Dioxins in
Derbyshire, carried out by MAFF is published.
Report shows decline in dioxin concentrations in
milk on all 3 farms. Dioxin levels in beef and
offal had also declined. Concentrations in soil
little changed, however The Government lifts
restrictions imposed on one of the Bolsover
31 March 1993 DOE releases results of further investigations
into dioxin contamination in the Staveley area.
Elevated levels identified.
30 April 1993 HMIP gives Coalite IPC authorisation for its
Coalite and Anglo United – Financial and Company Information
(Based on the latest information at companies house as of
The company claim to have spent more than œ2 million on
environmental protection measures since the takeover of the
company by Anglo United in 1989.
The company spent œ700,000 on effluent control and site
improvement during 1990-91 and a further œ1.6m was spent on site
clean-up, including the removal of waste built up over many
The company’s site in Derbyshire has an effluent volume of about
110,000 litres per hour from carbonisation liquor and effluent
from the chemical works, which flows into the Doe Lea, a
tributary of the Rother.
Coalite is a wholly owned subsidiary of the coal distributor
Anglo United PLC. As such most of the directors of Coalite are
also directors of the parent company. Their positions are listed
Directors of Anglo United are:
Harold Cottam (Chairman)
John Henry Gainham (Group Managing Director), (Director of
Coalite Group Ltd & Coalite Products Ltd)
George Wallace* (Group Finance Director), (Finance Director of
Coalite Group Ltd & Coalite Products Ltd.)
Alan Brooks (Non-Executive Director)
John Alfred Stoddart Nash (Non-Executive Director)
Mr John Veasey (Company Secretary)
* George Wallace (Group Finance Director of Anglo United and
Coalite’s Financial Director) was a director of Coalite pre-
takeover by Anglo United in 1989.
The following is a list of major institutional shareholders in
Major Shareholders in Anglo United
HSBC Holdings pic including the separate notification of: 40.22%
Samuel Montagu & Co Ltd 31.79
The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Ltd 8.43
Barclays Bank PLC 7.98
Scottish Amicable Investment Managers Limited 7.16
ARP(American Real Property)NV 4.63
Guinness Mahon Holdings PLC 3.36
Westpac Banking Corporation 1.41
Hill Samuel Bank Ltd 1.18
Credit Suisse 1.02
National Westminster Bank PLC 0.52
Banque Internationale a Luxembourg S.A. 0.38
The parent company, Anglo United, is currently trying to sell
the Coalite chemicals section (as part of its strategy to sell
off non-core businesses). No buyer has yet appeared.
Coalite’s products are sold under the brand names:
“Cotane” (O.P.P., Ortho Phenyl Phenol)
“Coaltec” Wood Preservative
“Panacide” (dichlorphen) (Source: Kompass Directory 1992)
Benzole: Coal Tar
Cresote, Coal Tar
Pitch, Coal Tar
Acid Tar and Cresylic
Perfumery & fixatives
A Comparison of the dioxins found by HMIP and Greenpeace in
(omitted here; unscannable)
COMPOUNDS OTHER THAN DIOXINS IDENTIFIED BY GREENPEACE IN THE
COALITE WASTE SAMPLES
Compounds identified to better than 90%
Compounds tentatively identified
phenol, dim ethyl-, phosphate
3-acetyl- 1 -(3,4-dimethoxyphenyl)5-ethyl-
(102 references omitted here; unscannable)