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The Writ That Went to My Heart

THE WRIT THAT WENT TO MY HEART by David Powell
The story of being sued during Pontypool’s toxic waste troubles with ReChem
Introduction
ReChem’s Pontypool chemical waste incinerator operated from 1974 to 2002. It was
originally intended to serve a sma ll region on the borders of England and Wales but
became an magnet for some of the world’s most toxic substances. The incinerator,
with its global waste trade, was continually controversial and the company became
renowned for resorting to libel actions when its reputation was threatened. A constant
contention of ReChem’s was that the Pontypool plant did not contaminate its
surroundings with PCB’s and dioxins. The claim was backed by the company’s
scientific data and reinforced by leading institutions, whilst at the same time as
ReChem’s importation of toxic waste was being officially approved of. Eventually,
pioneering research by the University of East Anglia showed that PCBs and dioxins
from ReChem’s plant had entered the environment. Public protests thwarted some
high-profile shipments to ReChem and finally the strengthening, of international
controls ended Pontypool’s part in toxic waste importation.
One of the most controversial episodes in toxic waste importation related to the
removal of a stockpile in Canada, for shipment to Pontypool via Liverpool docks. In
support of protestors from Pontypoo l, Liverpool dockers boycotted the waste and
Russian vessels carrying Canadian chemicals were turned back across the Atlantic.
That episode generated a new wave of libel actions from Rechem and placed me on the
wrong end of a writ.
Originally, I intended to write a complete history of the controversy around ReChem’s
hazardous waste plant in Pontypool. Then I thought that the period of the history I
knew most about was the period from 1984 onwards, which was after I began
campaigning. Furthermore, I thought that my most intimate attachment occurred
during the years from 1989 to 1993, which was when I was being sued by ReChem.
Therefore I’ve written the book from a personal standpoint, looking into that shorter
period and outwards from it, in a meandering way so as to indicate my thoughts and
feelings during that time. It means I’ve selected aspects of the history that were most
important to me when I was mounting the defence against the writ, so it also means
that the book is not a comprehensive history. However, I hope my approach will
provide much more than a snapshot.
I’d be glad to receive comments about any errors, typographical or otherwise. I can
modify the book, but I’m not looking to add anything unless there’s been an important
oversight on my part. On the other hand I’m vitally interested in comments connected
with any factual errors, misinterpretations, misleading impressions, or
misrepresentations of the views of others.
Deep thanks to my wife Denise, daughter N ikki and son Christian,who put up with my
pre-occupation when I was campaigning and particularly when I was being sued.
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