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Liverpool Indymedia

Now Look Here, Sonae!

Liverpool IMC | 11.01.2007 06:05 | Ecology | Health | Repression | Liverpool

Only two players have been produced by the Liverpool FC youth academy since they moved to Kirkby in 1998. That's a shocking record! It can't just be a coincidence that the academy is near to a chipboard factory that pumps out tonnes of cancer-causing chemicals every year. A school, public playing fields and houses are also easily within range of Sonae's pollution. The company have been in and out of Huyton Magistrates Court, but tiny fines and official indifference have left them free to cause all the disease and death they like.

And it doesn't stop there. Not content with threatening the health of working class people, the Portugese firm are also threatening freedom of speech. They have hassled the servers of Nerve magazine and the Kirkby Times (which had to be relaunched as the Liverpool Times), demanding that certain fact-based articles were taken down. Well they'll have a tough job intimidating Indymedia...

Campaigners have been trying to raise the alarm about Sonae’s activities since the Kirkby plant opened in 1999. A 2001 report by the Merseyside Hazards and Environmental Centre found that 'Local residents have documented classic symptoms of exposure to...hazards associated with the production of wood-based boards'. Similarly, a survey undertaken by Kirkby Against Toxic Sonae reported that '44.2% of responding households report that at least one member of the household has begun to suffer from a dry cough in the last 18 months.'

The Kirkby Times published disturbing photos of the Sonae ‘dust mountain’ in July 2003, and followed this up with pictures of gas clouds emerging from the factory’s chimney, which was a worrying sight for Sunday afternoon footballers on the nearby fields.

Nerve magazine has published two stories about Sonae’s crimes against humanity, leading to threats being made against their web server. A Spring 2004 article gave readers a summary of the ‘habitual offending’ against the government’s environmental and safety regulations, which resulted in small fines for the company and chronic illness for local residents. The Nerve website also features a 2001 article originally printed in TVS magazine, where a mother describes how:

'My 13 year old son left his bedroom window open one night, which he has never done before. 6 o’clock that morning he was taken to hospital with chest pains, difficulty breathing, he hit the floor as his legs gave in as he couldn’t stand up any longer. The hospital had to call in a cardiac nurse to check my son’s heart but were baffled because my son couldn’t breathe, he was pale, which is very unusual as my son is a very healthy boy.'

Since the Kirkby times relaunched as the Liverpool Times (using a server in the USA), the reporting of Sonae's atrocities has continued. On 25th October 2006, the website announced that the 'smell of the Sonae pollution was reported again by several residents of Northwood Kirkby', and that an employee of a company linked to Sonae had been sacked for allegedly passing-on information to the Kirkby Times. As news of the threats to Nerve spread, the website also raised the question of freedom of speech.

Even local corporate rags the Liverpool Echo and Daily Post haven’t been completely silent on the issue. For example, they mentioned it once the plant bosses promised to clean up their act and extend the chimney (as if that would magically reduce pollution). In April 2006, the paper trumpeted Sonae’s pathetic donation of £4,000 (or 0.01% of the company’s profits in the first nine months of last year) to Merseyside’s ‘Green Machine’ environmental campaign. A classic case of ‘greenwash’ if ever there was one.

So apart from the tax revenues a successful (or profitable) company brings in, why aren’t the authorities taking action against something so clearly damaging to people on Merseyside. Well, it just so happens that Sonae aren’t just into chipboard. Sonae Sierra, the shopping and leisure centres arm of Sonae GPRS, are 50% owned by Grosvenor. That company, dear reader, are currently developing the Paradise Project in the city centre, and are owned by the Duke of Westminster.

Something stinks, and it isn’t just the formaldehyde.

Liverpool IMC


Hide the following 5 comments


14.01.2007 12:37

I was night filming owls on Kirkby Moss in 2002.it began to snow,or so i thought.When i got out of my car it turned out to be fine ash.It was still coming down when i got to Rainford.


So what are the people of Kirkby going to do????

15.01.2007 02:38

Liverpool seems to be full of endless talk these days.

What I'm saying is... There is only one way to get Sonae shut down if that's what the people living near it want. I've been up close to the horrid place and the chemical smell is really nasty, possibly one of the worst environmental smells I've ever inhaled outdoors.

Direct collective community action is the only way to get it closed down, the time for nicey-nicey talk has passed surely. In other words if you want Sonae closed then time for action is NOW! Don't trust in the Priest who leads KATS, you need politically sussed leadership, not sell out clergy leadership, as some of the KATS members fully well know, they have always dampened down radicalism.

Time for the people to engage in direct collective community action, call on the support of political activists here in Liverpool and Merseyside to help you organise, the Liverpool Social Forum, maybe some of the trustworthy Socialist groups or parties, trade unions.

Obviously getting Sonae closed would be the ultimate goal, but that would also let them off without fully compensating the entire community of Northwood and the rest of Kirkby and also every single documented case of ill health. We're talking millions folks and that has to be an equal part of any closure campaign.

The direct collective community action could be a twenty fours blockade of the roads into and out of Sonae plant. *BUT* it has to be the widest range of Kirkby people, young, old, pensioners, men and women and the kids, bring your dogs (they breathe the air too) the more broader the involvement the better because Merseyside police are getting tough on all political activists here in Liverpool City Centre and elsewhere, they've been engaging in political intimidation and arresting peaceful protestors (they should take note because we know they read this site) but attacking the wider general public wouldn't be in their interest.

Or is this just another waste of talk and text... ???


codename - Redskye

Don't use chipboard !

07.02.2007 00:11

Using solid wood means storing carbon away from the earth's atmosphere.

Urs Kiefer


20.02.2007 22:43

Direct action might tend to be more effective, but is there any particular reason you have to be such a cock about it? Not the best way to convince people.

And please don't talk about LSF as if you represent us as a whole. Particularly if you're going to be berating community campaigns about how they need a more "politically sussed leadership".


Sonae Death Plant!

16.12.2011 22:40

Here's some scribblings I've made on Facebook today on the subject ...

KEVIN WEST wrote ¬
"Did anyone else get that circular from Sonnae? What 'consultation meetings with the public' were these? The sooner that Death Plant is closed the better! The air quality has been brilliant - like how it used to be before Sonnae. It's the size of Wembly Stadium and employs about 8 people. 3 deaths there this year. Need I go on about its appalling safety record? C'mon, people, where's your spunk?"

Say BYE To Sone wrote ¬
Say BYE to Sonae wheres our spunk? a few of us have ate n slept this campaign since the fire,and only now that it has started up again are people commenting! the deaths in sonae are a different matter, we are campaigning against the enviromental damage and damage to the health of the residents living close to the plant, any investigations regarding any deaths due to negligence are really left up to the authorities to deal with,soane have held meetings with local residents and took on board a few of the suggestions made,i personally agree that the air quality seemed better when the plant was not in operation and the wood dust piles had gone, now they are both back up and running its down to everyone to have their say.

KEVIN WEST wrote ¬
I actually posted this on my own page and then someone suggested I post it here. ‘C'mon people, where's your spunk’ is not aimed at you. It's an invitation to people to continue a dialogue that was started almost 10 years ago and was intended as a message of support. You only started this after the 2011 fire??!! I have been an opponent since I moved back here in 2002. I and many of my family and friends are Sonae victims. I have gathered extensive footage and research on Sonae – no mean feat. But, as I’m sure you’ll agree, Sonae inclusive can hardly be described as transparent. As an original member of the Kirkby Response Theatre, I helped devise a play about Sonae and toured with it. It was called Dead Fish & Chipboard. Someone from Sonae came to see the play. They responded to our circular. I wish the same could be said of theirs. Not everyone got their circular; that much is clear. I received it but my neighbour didn’t. It looks like you didn’t get it either.

I hate what you say about the deaths…

If Sonae cannot look after its workers then what hope the residents? The deaths this year are signs and warnings that something is fundamentally wrong with the plant. The company has only a ‘limited liability’, whereas we, the residents, have total liability and through the council. That’s how they can get away with what they do. For there to be a crime is that there has to be a victim (by loss, harm or damage). Here’s where the local people qualify. However, I am also aware that it does not affect everyone health wise and that (for instance) local doctors continue to strongly indicate they are unsympathetic when it comes to the human health issues, e.g. Dr Thong (Southdene) and Dr Hughes (Northwood) who represent the two nearest surgeries. I am also aware of how the council had cherry picked stats from previous university surveys to bolster their argument that the factory really is doing no harm. The ‘clean, green and proud of it!’ mantra springs to mind.

Naivety has to be dispelled. These consultation meetings had their agendas already set. These were their consultation meetings – not ours. But we all know that Sonae would not turn up to a consultation meeting where they were not allowed to set their own agenda and even less, follow one set by concerned residents. And besides, why should they when they’ve already held their own. It’s all a game, but one that’s played for real with the real health, the real safety and the real lives of ordinary people – the real victims in all this. Why doesn’t Nigel Graham, Sonae MD, set up house on Simonswood Lane if it’s so safe?

Say BYE To Sonae? It beggars belief that you would say that you ‘…personally agree the air quality seemed better when the plant was not in operation and the wood dust piles had gone’!

If that’s your stance then what the f#!k is this page all about? It ‘seemed better’? Whose side are you on? It either was better or it wasn’t! “Say BYE To Sonae” is supposed to say the air was drastically (choose your own adjective) improved by its closure!

It’s nice that Sonae have taken up some of the issues raised, but then that’s what limited liability forces them to do. But they do not have to do anything after that – and they won’t. As Knowsley MBC stated, “Sonae is here to stay”. And the reason for that, buried amongst all the other detritus, is that the entirety of the site that is Kirkby Industrial Estate has a very special status – one which everyone seems to have forgotten in all this. It was designated – and will be for centuries to come – a place for the manufacture of highly dangerous and hazardous substances by virtue of it being a decommissioned WW2 munitions factory. 20% of all the munitions and bombs dropped by the British during WW2 were made here. And we are still paying to this day. For example, the recent Galaxy (Pochin) storage base adjacent to Spinney Woods had to employ a full time bomb disposal expert during its construction in 2005/6. 92 live bombs were removed from the site! The ground was also saturated in phosphor. So, in theory, they could build a nuclear power plant there if they so wished. That’s why Sonae was granted permission to build here …and banned the world over.

Say BYE to Sonae wrote ¬
You hate what i say about the deaths kevin, i hate the fact any deaths occured at all but i wont start laying any blame on sonaes management because as yet we dont know who is to blame and apparently the investigation is ongoing, secondly i was also involved in the campaign 10 years ago when this all started so no, i didnt get involved in 2011.when the fire started early this year there were hundreds of residents up in arms about it hence we started petitions,we had a public meeting that attracted quite a few people and also members from other groups,agencies who have been supporting us to this day,we sadly have dwindled in numbers since the plant ceased operation but we have still been doing lots of research,continuing with the petitions and also met with sonae management,we advised them to take more community responsibility and to keep the residents informed of any new developments hence the news letter, i did receive it yes, the matter of the wood piles plus logs stashed outside the plant has only just been noticed and will be put to our local councillors (again), i feel they just sit,read our emails and right a standard reply just to shut us up, so we are going to have to try a different tactic, dont think much is going to be done before the holiday now as it is a busy time, but i can honestly say that myself and at least 2 other of our group are going to up any past efforts and try and get some satisfaction, you seem to know a lot more than i do regarding the matter kevin so why no jump on the cause and get stuck in.

KEVIN WEST wrote ¬
I am jumped in. I am on the cause and I am stuck in.

My film company is working on a new documentary for TV in which Sonae figure. It will take perhaps another year or more to complete. However, it is not exclusively about Sonae! I hate to say this, but where you have 'advised' Sonae, you have played their game again. They love groups like you! In a hypothetical court case, they can now show evidence to the judge or council officials that they have consulted and listened and further produced a series of so called 'community information leaflets'. This is how it works.

In reality, I think it is a lost cause. Divine Intervention may be the only hope now. No one is going to picket the site. No one is going to go in there and arrest the board. No one is going to close it down. George Howarth’s calls for its closure were simply hot air designed to show (because it made the BBC/ITV regional news and he was asked to comment) that he’s on the ball – not!

The question, as I see it, is where do the people of Kirkby, Simonswood and Knowsley really stand? Are they detached from the issue, perhaps through poor information? Is it that they simply don’t care enough? Or are there enough souls out there who just need to be garnered together in order to make a difference; remembering that it need not be a majority. It just needs to be a sizeable, reasonably informed vocal and active minority to make a difference.

Unfortunately, Sonae falls into that irritating mid table area of polluters who can’t be shown to have killed anyone directly, caused cancers, swelled out the GP practice or devastated the environment. And as such it hasn’t attracted the attention of environmental scientists or activists and people of that ilk. What I can tell you is that a former insider in the Environment Department of KMBC who was on my side against the plant said that the reason they don’t do anything is because people don’t complain! Affected people need to complain! This was in 2007. That year they received just 1 complaint about Sonae! He said, ‘If we had more official complaints we could do something. But no one is complaining officially. Until they do that, we can’t do anything.’

Campaigners need to go to their doctors reporting the symptoms and getting copies of their medical records in respect of these complaints – whether or not the doctor agrees. People and doctors need to be reminded that GPs are just that – GPs – not experts! People need to gather before-and-after photographs and footage of all material complaints, i.e. dust on the windows, etc. Local farmers may be a good source of information. Two local farmers came and met with us when we did the play and reported soil pollution and how their crops were affected by Sonae emissions. They may possess the original or even more up-to-date statistics on any soil analysis.

You could, under common law, get people together to petition MBC to withdraw its operating license on the grounds that we the people simply don’t want it there anymore and then add in all the afore mentioned evidence to show how harmful it has been. This evidential part, however, is the almost impossible part. Because proving it on those additional grounds may be unfeasible and certainly challengeable by expert counter testimony. All research is flawed and by exposing those flaws, a judge or MBC appropriate body, may be forced to find against a common law action of this type.

That said, a common law action would still be the best route (though I’m no expert on the law) because it IS the highest law in the land and we are common law citizens in a common law judiciary. Whereas Sonae, the MBC and HM Government operate under corporate or maritime/banking law. That system of law does not apply to us unless we consent ourselves into it. Without consent it is not law!

Under common law you can issue a notice to arrest Sheena Ramsey CEO of KMBC and Nigel Graham MD of Sonae Industria for their failures. First of all you give them an opportunity to remedy the charge (possibly that of misfeasance/nonfeasance). Then you go to the police mob handed, ask to speak with the senior station chief. Inform him of what you have done and intend to do. Then place them under their oaths as common law officers. And when they fail to do anything, you go and make the arrests yourselves – as is your right under common law. These make great filming and photo opportunities for any press who may want to get involved and YouTube.

It won’t get it closed down, but it will shame them into doing something about it. Imagination is what is needed in this type of action. And when you take this sort of action, you take with you camcorders, phone cams, plenty of children and old people and people from all walks of life just to put their security and the intervening police (who are supposed to be on your side) on their very best behaviour!

Kevin West
mail e-mail: westfilm @hotmail.co.uk


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