ReChem’s Pontypool chemical waste incinerator operated from 1974 to 2002. It was originally intended to serve a small 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 Pontypool, 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 Nikki and son Christian,who put up with my pre-occupation when I was campaigning and particularly when I was being sued.