Open letter from Douglas Gowan
16th August, 2007
In an open letter to the Ecologist, Douglas Gowan has detailed a two-year smear campaign waged against him in the Seventies by Monsanto, details of which were known to the Agency and were only revealed when Gowan submitted a Freedom of Information request. Who was it protecting?
From Douglas Gowan,
There have been some current revelations as to the events that occurred in 1973, when a seemingly determined effort was made to discredit me as a witness to the toxic waste dumping at Brofiscin. There are also some 14 other UK landfill or manufacturing sites that were operated by either Monsanto or their primary waste hauler and landfill operator, Purle Brothers. By 1973 Purle been taken over by Redland, and was known as Redland Purle.
The efforts by Monsanto to discredit me were then continued by Redland Purle in 1974. In my absence overseas (I had removed my primary residence to the USA in March 1972) they sued me for theft (samples taken on my own clients' property); for trespass (sampling on my own clients' property); and for libel (comments in a letter written to Redland's own solicitors, Ellisons). Some might consider this to be vexatious litigation.
By early 1973 PCBs had been definitively found at Brofiscin in samples analyzed by ICI Laboratories (Dr Chipperfield and Dr Whitby); London University (Professor Clarke); the Welsh Office (Government Chemist); the Ministry of Agriculture and the Royal Veterinary College; Monsanto (AF Regan and HA Vodden and Dr JW Barrett); Guelph University in Canada (Professor Platonow) and the National Water Quality Laboratory in Duluth, USA (Dr Gil Veith).
In addition I had presented Monsanto with physical proofs of the dumping of 30 other products that came from Newport. These products included chemical compounds that contained dioxins, styrene, benzenes, mercury, pentachlorophenol, vinyl chloride, naphthalene, and potassium. Monsanto were very nervous about the findings as they also cast questions on other sites such as Maendy (where, as at Brofiscin, cattle and sheep deaths and abortions had been reported) and Penhros, and Newport and Ruabon, as well as at various sites in England.
Recently Mr HA Vodden of Monsanto told BBC Newsnight that both PCBs and dioxins were consigned to Brofiscin and were part of "the raft of products which were eventually consigned to that site". The programme was broadcast on July 3rd 2007.
Part of the accountability process now being enforced by the Environment Agency is to show the link between the original dumping and the current landfill discharges to a receptor, and thus the links between the original parties responsible for the dumping, and the current contamination. This is why the events of 34 years ago are still so relevant today, and to the 'polluter pays' principle.
In February 1973 Monsanto agreed with me that the waste material in Brofiscin was mainly derived from Newport. That admission came from a Mr DC Pollock, the Assistant Company secretary at Monsanto, then based in Victoria Street in London. However, Monsanto also expressed concern at leaks to the media, which it later transpired came from the Welsh Office, and they advised me that no less than sixteen Monsanto UK and European managers were involved in monitoring events at Brofiscin. These included:
DB Shearn: Newport
PJ Marsh: Brussels
RA Baxter: Brussels
HA Vodden Ruabon
Dr JW Barrett: London
Dr AF Regan: Newport
FJ Roberts: London and Newport
JW Pennington: Newport
I met all of these, and their St Louis-based US boss Dr Papageorge, at one time or another. These Monsanto managers were very anxious to prevent any links being seen to be established between the PCBs and the cattle deaths at Brofiscin. A Mr John Carr was appointed to be the co-ordinator of the ad hoc group watching Brofiscin and myself, and he was a senior manager in Monsanto's Brussels office. He then appointed Ernie Bracken, a Monsanto PR man who was based in London, to be the Monsanto ‘spin doctor’.
On June 3rd 1973 the Sunday Times published an article about Brofiscin, Maendy, and 40 other landfills in the UK accepting hazardous wastes. This alarmed Monsanto. On June 8th 1973 Mr Bracken wrote a memo to his management team that began a campaign of spin and lies and deceit. He decided to divert attention away from Brofiscin, by having me placed at Maendy, and making outrageous observations. He also advised his managers that I was the consultant hired at Maendy by the local farmers.
This was totally false. I had represented the hill farmers until 1970/71 as an employee of the NFU, and then as a consultant and advisor to the NFU. I then ceased to represent them as they could not afford my fees, a fact that has been confirmed recently by Geldards, who were the legal advisers to these farmers. In addition I was by 1973 a resident in the USA, and living in Chicago. I made visits to the UK, but they were usually fleeting. Proof is in my passports.
Mr Bracken spun a tale that had me on the BBC in Wales, in the local newspapers, and on the 'Nationwide' programme. I was in fact in Chicago. The person who was really on the news programmes was a Bill Maidment, a farmer who lived near Maendy. A Sunday Times reporter may also have appeared on 'Nationwide'.
Mr Bracken wanted to create this false trail, because at Brofiscin we had found an industrial organo phosphorous compound used in transformers along with PCBs, and he wanted to discredit me by having me be thought to claim that such a compound had caused one of Mr Maidment's cattle or sheep to die at Maendy, when in fact it was probably killed by ingesting spilt concentrated sheep dip that contained TOCP.
Mr Bracken then set up a meeting with Jon Tinker of the New Scientist, together with PJ Marsh from Monsanto in Brussels, and HA Vodden from Ruabon. This occurred at Monsanto House in London on June 15th 1973. Jon Tinker had been to Maendy and had interviewed a person that he was told was me. Tinker wrote an article that appeared in the New Scientist, pointing out errors and including wild statements attributed to me in respect of Maendy.
When Tinker met Monsanto the company knew that I was in the USA, and was arriving in London on the 20th June 1973 so as to meet them on the 21st June, at the Farmers Club. Whether they told this to Tinker I do not know. My meeting was with Dr Baxter, from Brussels; HA Vodden from Ruabon, and RA Lidgett from London. Dr Whitby, from ICI Laboratories, was also present. So were Professor Clarke of the Royal Veterinary College; Professor Platonow from Guelph University; and a lawyer from Geldards.
On the same day, the 21st June 1973 Tinker’s article appeared in the New Scientist. The quality of it can be determined by the following:
1. Tinker claims that PCB concentrations in wet weather are diluted; a rudimentary error for a magazine such as the New Scientist. PCBs are not water soluble. They are also known to accumulate, and adhere to suspended solids, or migrate to silts and sediment. Thus in wet weather they would tend to be flushed out as a suspended solid; and therefore on sampling higher levels of PCBs are usually found.
2. Tinker reports that I represented Bill Maidment and other farmers at Maendy and Penrhos in 1973. I did not and Geldards have confirmed this fact. I had not done so since 1970.
3. Analytical results that Tinker cites are for Brofiscin and not Maendy. Cattle deaths and abortions that Tinker cites are also for Brofiscin and not Maendy.
4. Tinker claims that on the 7th June 1973 I issued a press statement announcing that 50ppm of TOCP had been found in samples taken at Maendy on May 24th 1973. I was in Chicago on both dates, and I never took any samples at Maendy, and I did not represent the farmers there. I do not know who Tinker interviewed, if anyone, but it was not me!
5. Tinker claims that I was also sampling at Maendy on the 1st and 2nd May 1973, when again I was in Chicago. ICI denied ever seeing these samples, correctly, so again who did Tinker interview, or did he?
6. Tinker claims that I was working with a Professor "George" Clarke. I worked with Professor EGC Clarke, and nobody called him "George". Nobody who knew him would dare!
7. Tinker attributes soil samples taken at Brofiscin and analysed jointly at Guelph and ICI to Maendy when they were taken at Brofiscin after a cattle death, which he then omits to report. The soils contained 10-20 ppm PCBs.
8. Tinker fails to understand the mechanisms by which PCBs travel and contends that no stream samples can ever exceed 0.15ppm PCBs. This is pure nonsense if suspended solids are examined, as would be the case in real life. One did not filter the water.
9. Tinker claims extensive interviews with me. I had none. Either he invented a 'me' or he spoke with an impostor. You know how exact I am. Do you think I would say ok to such nonsense? Hardly!
10. I have recovered all of the existing ICI Laboratory reports and analysis recently, and these are explicit in stating that the few Maendy samples taken were only reference samples, and largely date from 1971. Yet Tinker refers to Maendy sludge samples and the involvement of a Dr Bob Pearson at the ICI Laboratories. There was a Dr CR Pearson at ICI who undertook quality assurance in December 1971, but he was not involved in 1972 or in 1973/4. Nor were ICI ever involved in any litigation aspects as claimed. This aspect of the publication appears to be a pure fiction.
11. Tinker also libels me in a story he recounts about settlement discussions at Brofiscin, and in so doing he reveals his links not just with Monsanto but with the then Redland Purle Company Secretary. I had written to the Welsh Office on May 10th 1973 at the request of Brynmor John MP to advise them of the failure of settlement discussions with the Miles family. Purle, not Redland Purle, had offered £60,000 as a settlement, but that offer meant that Miles had to pay Geldards and myself, and also remediate his own land. This offer came after the February 1st 1972 remediation agreement, and was aimed by Purle at resolving all litigation before the merger of Purle with Redland. Miles turned the offer down.
12. Tinker claims that I am/was unreliable and as a proof cites the fact that Miles told him that the settlement figure was only £30,000. Well to Miles it was, because he had to pay Geldards and me. However, Tinker, who must have known what Miles meant, then deliberately discredits me, and says that this why the Welsh Office regarded me with distaste.
13. Not content with that he then cites Mr Hawkins, of Redland Purle, in a denial of comments made by Derek Irlham, the Commercial Director of Purle, when Irlham had said that on merger, if Miles did not accept the settlement offer, that Purle would be left as a shell by an asset sale, and thus without the means to satisfy any claims. Irlham also said that this could be done anyway to avoid meeting the remediation burden at any of the troubled sites. Redland and Purle then never did meet any of the costs.
I wonder if Tinker knew that his leak of this privileged May 10th 1973 letter would cause Richard Hawkins and Redland to personally sue me in my absence overseas, during 1974, for theft (my own clients samples); trespass (on my own clients land); and libel (my responses to Ellisons over the Welsh Office letter) when they had to know I was domiciled in the USA?
There are criminal law implications here, and the libel may be a criminal libel as it involves a fraud and an obstruction of justice.
14. Tinker then libels me again by stating as if fact that we never analysed milk samples. This is quite untrue, and the finding of PCBs in the milk was one of the reasons why Miles had to halve his prize-winning herd, as he had insufficient pasture that was contamination free. Tinker also says that the MAFF veterinary officers were prevented from analysing the bull calf in 1972. This too is wholly untrue, and I have the documents that exhibit the findings by the MAFF and its Veterinary Investigation Office of significant PCBs in the tissue. So do the Environment Agency, through Monsanto’s internal documents, as Monsanto had a split sample!
15. Seemingly inadvertently Tinker does in the hindsight of history pay me a compliment that he did not intend, and also a proof as to my credibility, when he says that “the essence of Gowan's case is that high PCB levels only occur intermittently."
I do not think that Atkins or the Environment Agency will today disagree with my then 1972 opinion. Interestingly too, the Welsh Office told Tinker that “If his reputation is at stake, so is ours." They also said that it was not their job to assess any environmental health risks, and they claimed that the Maendy and Brofiscin streams were potable and above "WHO standards for purity." Talk about deja vu!
As I say I do not know whether Tinker was used or was part of the conspiracy, but what we do know is that Ernie Bracken of Monsanto then convened a meeting in London on June 22nd when he continued the charade that misleads even his own senior management [not by the way a unique event within Monsanto]. He again says that I was acting at Maendy, when in fact I was acting at Brofiscin. It is Brofiscin they did not want to admit to, for reasons that are now so evident.
1. At page 2 of a long memo of the PR hosted meeting he makes the point that on June 15th Tinker called me “James Gowan " which hardly suggests that Tinker knew me, and Bracken also again claims that I had an interest in fostering confusion in the Maendy incident. What incident? And in a matter where not only did I have no client but was living in Chicago!
2. Then on page 4 the truth emerges. The meeting concludes that:
“If ICI and Monsanto were to carry out some joint sample analyses using agreed techniques and as a result were to jointly confirm our previously quoted figures, this would do much to discredit Gowan. It would not, however, silence him, because he has drawn on other labs in the USA and Canada for his analyses."
This is a naked declaration of intent to use rigged analyses to discredit me, and thus diminish recognition of the Brofiscin problem, only frustrated by the fact that I always split samples with two of the world's top laboratories, being those at Guelph University and the well known National Water Quality Laboratory in Duluth. This is and was a criminal intent to commit a fraud to obstruct justice; no more no less; and a mirror of the conduct exhibited by Monsanto with IBTL in the USA. The principals in IBTL went to prison, and the laboratories were shut down.
In 1974 Redland Purle and Richard Hawkins followed this smear campaign by filing litigation in the almost certain knowledge that I was domiciled overseas, and working in such as China, Bulgaria, and Poland, and thus would not be able to defend that litigation, as I would not know about it. I am having this conduct also reviewed as it too has serious criminal implications, as plainly it was devised to affect the Miles lawsuit, and it did. It also allowed such as the Welsh Office to be dismissive as to the Brofiscin problem, and in so doing prevent any action to mitigate or remediate the release of contaminants to the groundwater, surface waters, and soils, in Groesfaen and on Brofiscin Farm.
It also afforded an excuse for the predecessors to the RCT to take no action in respect of the environmental or public health issues, despite the evidence of their own continued monitoring. The culmination of which was the allowing of development despite the fact that senior officials within the RCT described the landfill as ‘evil smelling’ and ‘potentially dangerous’, and local residents had reported fires, explosions, and breathing problems.
The reason that history is important in a matter like this is that if the polluters add to the act of dumping toxic wastes and linked contamination of waters, by acts that border on criminality, then they must be held accountable, and must pay. In this instance Monsanto dumped some of the most dangerous chemicals known, and not just in pure form, but as such as commercial Aroclors, where the PCB is added to by furans, dioxins, and pentachlorophenol, as well as other compounds. The toxicity of these chemicals in combination is greatly elevated, and if you add in the BP solvents and other Monsanto wastes in free form, such as vinyl chloride, 1, 2, Dichloroethane, toluene, Xylol, butanol, and methylene chloride, then you have a very nasty potential for harm.
I do not know where Ernie Bracken is today. I hope that the Environment Agency will track him down. We do know where Jon Tinker is, and as Panos is meant to be a beacon of light, I do hope that he will support the principles he espouses and come forward. He is responsible for both injustice and damage, but at the end of the day he may also have been ruthlessly manipulated by Monsanto and others.
- SPECIAL REPORT: THE BROFISCIN TOXIC QUARRY SCANDAL
- Ecologist investigation: true story of Brofiscin Quarry - most polluted place in the UK
- Has the Environment Agency obstructed the course of justice?
- Letter: Environment Agency respond to Ecologist investigation
- The murky world of Monsanto, Brofiscin Quarry and the Environment Agency
- How the Environment Agency failed to make Monsanto pay
- Letter: Environment Agency's second response to Ecologist investigation
- Shooting the messenger: the story of Douglas Gowan
- Ecologist Archive: The Monsanto issue of 1998
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