A MEETING has been held to address growing concerns about potential toxic waste leakage at a former chemical dumping site in Herefordshire.

Members of Herefordshire Council, Caerphilly Council and the general public, alongside chemical pollution investigator Revd Paul Cawthorn, met at Marden Community Centre.

It was to discuss what members of Herefordshire Friends of the Earth have described as a “toxic mixture and its fumes” escaping from the earth at Sutton Walls, between Marden and Sutton St Nicholas. There were also worries that hazardous substances had polluted the groundwater in the area.


Lying four miles from Hereford, Iron Age hillfort Sutton Walls is a scheduled ancient monument, which has been associated with both King Offa and King Ethelbert. But during the 1960s and 1970s, the site was used by Monsanto and other companies as an industrial tip for vast amounts of paint, nail varnish, fuel sludge and other chemicals.

Hereford Times: A message supposedly from someone who grew up in the areaA message supposedly from someone who grew up in the area (Image: Joshua Dyer)

Nick James and Charles Yarnold of Herefordshire Council said that, between 2010 and 2015, the council had investigated the site and identified 573 potential risks, including the possibility of vapour rising from the ground. They concluded that it does not meet the regulations to be officially declared as contaminated and that there would be no more immediate investigations unless there was significant change.

Revd Cawthorn, however, argued that due to climate change and erosion, there had been significant change, meaning the site presented a threat to locals and the environment.

He claimed that the north side of the Sutton Walls hillfort was especially dangerous, stating that there was ‘no grass growth’ and that he was ‘pretty confident phenol is coming out across the paths as vapour.’

As well as phenol, which can cause hyperthermia and acidosis, Revd Cawthorne believes that toluene, the immunosuppressant PCB, trichloroethane and various other harmful chemicals are all still present in some form.


He was particularly concerned that tetrachloroethane, trichloroethane and dichloroethane had seeped into the groundwater and polluted local water sources.

“I’ve spoken to two people this afternoon who have had their wells closed down compulsorily, that to me is evidence,” he said.

"If it’s not safe to use the well water, is it safe to use your apples which have drawn water out of the ground?”

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Revd Cawthorne feared that the worst was yet to come, asserting that unless remedial work is done the site will continue to erode, potentially unleashing more toxic substances.

He said: “That site wall is going to collapse, it’s only a matter of time.

“We’ll then find out how many hazardous chemicals are in there.

“Without further expert evaluation, I’m scared.”