Remediation Of Chromate Works

An interesting example of remediation is the Shawfield site, Rutherglen near Glasgow, which was at one time the largest dichromate works in the UK.  It was operated by J&J White Chemicals, established by James and John White in the 1820s.  Potassium dichromate was used widely in photography, wood treatment, and leather processing. Appalling workplace safety conditions at the plant were strongly criticised by James Keir Hardie in the 1890s, with workers suffering “chrome holes” (ulcerations burnt into their flesh), lung cancer, digestive disorders and skin conditions.  It operated until the 1960s finally owned by Albright & Wilson.  The activities led to widespread contamination with hexavalent chromium (Chromium VI), the toxic chemical which featured in the film “Erin Brockovitch”.  Investigations showed that J&J White had routinely been disposing of up to 2.5 million tonnes of waste a year (chromate ore reprocessing residue) at locations such as quarries or mines around the site, some of which were later used as playing fields, parks, playgrounds, for housing and for spectator stands at a football ground.

The remediation project is being led by Clyde Gateway, a partnership of local authorities and Scottish Enterprise.  Phase I of the clean-up was completed in 2014 at a cost of £16 million. Work on phase 2 is due to begin in May 2019 and to be completed in March 2020.  It involves injecting calcium polysulphide to reduce the carcinogenic and corrosive properties of Chromium VI.  The site will ultimately be used for industrial units.

To view coverage on this topic, please click here.

Text references: paras. 1-07; 22-26


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