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Former Phurnacite Works Land Abercwmboi

The 12 hectare former Phurnacite Works in Abercwmboi the land which has lay dormant since the plant closed in 1991 is included in RCT’s Local Development Plan, with the site allocated for 500 houses.

A new primary school is also proposed and a significant area of recreation land and the lakes could also be retained as a wildlife area.


A clean-up operation costing £12.4m, which took place in June 2005, was one of the biggest reclamation schemes in Wales as there was 123,000 tonnes of toxic waste present on the site.

The remedial works were successfully and safely completed 20 weeks ahead of programme and within budget.


With 500 houses and a school proposed for the site a question to ask is is have all the contamination or (contaminants) been removed from the brownfield site?


We ask the question after reading a report on:


Former Phurnacite Works Abercwmboi Flood Consequences Assessment


The nature of the ground beneath the existing Site is unlikely to allow the use of soakaways in the new proposals, due to the likely presence of subsurface contaminants remaining from the former Phurnacite Works.


The question is the site safe for housing and school development?


Vitrification of Non-recyclable Toxic Wastes is Held Back

5.4 High temperature vitrification is an alternative process for destroying hazardous waste and locking toxic metals into a leaching-resistant product. We know of a company (Glaztek) that has been trying to set up to use a Dutch glassification technology (Alkali Slag Cement Process Technology) 44 and producing useful building materials (tiles, cement alternative, etc). The Welsh Development Agency has been unhelpful, despite the potential and the obvious need, so did no technical assessment nor helped find a site. The company oVered to deal with 150,000 tonnes of hazardous tarry waste on the derelict Phurnacite (exsmokeless fuel) site, but the WDA failed to disclose this and pressed on with their plan to transport the wastes to landfills in England.45 The EA participated in this decision and informed the planning authority it is the “BPEO”.


What else did the (WDA) Welsh Development Agency fail to disclose? 

Carl Sargeant AM Minister for Environment 14 November 2015


Reference: Contaminated Land once occupied by National Coal Board and British Coal know as The Phurnacite Abercwmboi


14th November 2015


Dear Mr. Sargeant,


As you would be aware the Welsh Government provided funding for the removal of contamination at the above site the toxic legacy of contaminated land left over by the industry. I understand the cost of removal of the toxic waste cost over £12 million and the contractors used by the Welsh Government the contract was completed months ahead of schedule.


You would be aware there are proposals for development on the brownfield site 500 houses new school new football ground and recreation area etc.


Looking at reports concerning the 88-acre former Phurnacite brownfield site it is noted that the land retains contaminants leading to the question not all contamination has been removed.


Having requested information from Rhondda Cynon Taf CBC with regard to how deep the contamination is and how much remains on the brownfield site. As you were aware the local authority has the sole responsibility for determining whether any land appears to be contaminated land.  It cannot delegate this responsibility.


Having requested under the FOI Act from RCTC the following:



·         Please can you inform me of how much contamination remains on the former Phurnacite Works Site?

·         As written within the report there remains presence of subsurface contaminants please can you inform me how deep into the subsurface the contamination remains?

·         As you agree contamination still exists on the land but to what degree?


The site has not currently been determined  “contaminated Land” as defined within the Environmental Protection Act 1990, therefore it’s not possible to quantify the depth or volume of contaminated material that may be present.


·         Please can you inform me under the Freedom of Information Act, what developments have RCTC made to remove unacceptable risks to human health and the environment on the Phurnacite land excluding the 2005 £12.5m clean up?

·         Please can you inform me under the Freedom of Information Act when will the land be free of contamination and made suitable for recreational facilities and housing development?


As the site has not been determined as “contaminated land” as defined within the Environmental Protection Act 1990, there are no current proposals for the remediation of the site. I would refer you to the Council’s Contaminated Land Strategy in this regard. As detailed previously any subsequent developer of the site will be required to consider any potential contamination of the site as part of the planning application process.


I believe the Welsh Assembly Government is the owner of the brownfield site at Abercwmboi. 


Please can you service a response as why any potential developer is responsibly for Contaminated Land?


RCTCBC have commissioned a report from outside consultants and within the report it is quit clearly written the land has contaminants, this report was achieved after the removal of toxic waste costing taxpayers over £12 million.


Under the freedom of information Act please can you provide the following?


o   Were any Contamination tests for land and water made after the removal of toxic waste from the former Phurnacite brownfield site in 2005?

o   If Contamination tests for land and water made please can you provide the results?

o   Please supply a copy of Contaminated Land Report for Wales?

o   Please supply a copy of data around the health aspects of land contamination from the former Phurnacite brownfield site?

o   Do you have a monitoring programme for the former Phurnacite brownfield site if you have please can you supply information recorded?

o   Have you commissioned any outside consultants for the former Phurnacite brownfield site and what was their project brief?


500 houses new school, what assurances can the Welsh Assembly Government give that it is safe to develop the former Phurnacite brownfield site when the local authority cannot provide data for type and the volume of contaminants that remain on the former Phurnacite brownfield site?


You would be aware and we must not forget the Phurnacite was probably one of the worst industrial polluter in Britain.


The reply AberdareOnline received


RE: Former Phurnacite Works, Abercwmboi

Thank you for your request to the Minister for Natural Resources for information concerning ground conditions at the former Phurnacite works, Abercwmboi. I have gathered the information you have requested and have addressed each question you have raised below.


In relation to your reference to the ownership of the former Phurnacite Works site, I can confirm that neither the Welsh Government nor the former WDA have ever owned any land within the site.


The assessment and remediation of the Phurnacite works was undertaken by the Welsh Development Agency (WDA) under a lease from the owners of part of the site - The Coal Authority – and in accordance with statutory powers available for land reclamation. These works did not include the land owned by Coal Products Ltd which makes up a proportion of the site. A report that verifies satisfactory completion of the remediation works was completed during 2005.


A series of contaminant testing was undertaken following the remediation of areas impacted by ‘gross contamination’ by a specialist remediation company during 2005. This formed part of the process to verify completion of the remediation works. I am not aware of any further contamination testing commissioned by the Welsh Government or WDA after this time.


The reports containing remediation verification results are available to view by appointment at the Welsh Government offices in Treforest. Should you wish to view these reports please email my colleague Steve Smith


There is no up-to-date contaminated land report for Wales. However the Welsh Government has requested that Natural Resources Wales prepare a report titled ‘The State of Contaminated Land in Wales’. This report summarises the contaminated land activity of



Local Authorities in Wales and is scheduled for publication during the spring of 2016. It will be available from the Natural Resources Wales website when published.


I have checked with my colleagues within the Health Department and they can find no information that outlines the health impacts of land contamination from the former Phurnacite works. However I am aware that a document titled ‘Health Impact Assessment of Land Remediation Options: Site of former Phurnacite Factory –Abercwmboi, May 2003’’ was produced by Brof Taf Health Authority, which is now held by Public Health Wales. This report is available on their website.


In response to your question concerning a monitoring programme for the site, the Welsh Government, having no responsibility or obligation to undertake such monitoring, have not done so.


In relation to your question concerning the commissioning of consultants for the site, I can confirm that the Welsh Government employed Master Planning consultants during 2006 to provide design advice for the proposed redevelopment of the site. The plan was developed with a number of stakeholders, including Coal Products Ltd, The Coal Authority, the Local Authority and members of the local community. The plan was completed in 2010 and the outputs were then adopted by Rhondda Cynon Taff Council within their Local Development Plan. The Welsh Government has not engaged any environmental consultants for this site since this time.


Finally, should the site be redeveloped in the future, the new land owner (which is usually the developer) will be responsible for any site investigation, risk assessment and remediation. The amount of any further works will depend on any works completed to date and the sensitivity of the proposed end use for the site. The developer of the land will therefore bear the costs for these works and, responsibility for ensuring the site is then fit for purpose.


The Local Authority Planning Department, with support from their Environmental Health functions, will oversee the redevelopment process by attaching conditions to any planning consent. These conditions will require the developer to undertake all necessary steps to ensure that the site will not pose an unacceptable risk to human health or the wider environment during and after redevelopment. The final stages of remediation will be verified when construction is complete to ensure all remediation objectives have been met.

I trust this provides all of the information you have requested.

Yours Sincerely

Andy Williams

Contaminated Land Policy Officer