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Hazmat Suited Stoney Castle Protester Delivers Dirty Water to GBC Offices

Published on: 7 Sep, 2021
Updated on: 7 Sep, 2021

By Julie Armstrong

local democracy reporter

A protester closed part of Guildford Borough Council’s offices yesterday and the police were called after he delivered “dirty water” from a village stream.

Daniel Hill told the LDRS “everyone freaked out” in the borough council’s reception area when he “undid the lid” of a water sample from a stream running through Pirbright, which he claimed is contaminated and demanded it was tested.

An oily orange substance is visible on top of the water in Hodge Brook, which runs from the military range past his father’s land and through Pirbright village.

The Environment Agency said it tested surface water on Robin Hill’s land in 2019 and found no contamination, and the borough council said it knows “no evidence of such contamination”.

See also: Residents Left In The Dark Over Toxic Waste Risk From Stoney Castle Illegal Dump

Speaking during his protest at the authority’s HQ where he wore a hazmat suit and held a sign saying “toxic waste”, Mr Hill said: “I undid the lid. They didn’t like that, everyone’s freaking out. Yet they’re not that bothered about the people of Pirbright.

A sample of water reported to have been taken from Hodge Brook next to Stoney Castle. Image – Daniel Hill

“I said, this bottle is flowing into the village; if you’re that worried get someone down that can test it, if it’s so bad that you’ve closed down the council offices.”

Mr Hill left Millmead House after six hours once the borough council’s service delivery director promised to email the Environment Agency (EA), which is responsible for dealing with polluted water – but it is still today refusing to test the brook.

‘I think it dawned on them’

Mr Hill said: “I told them I will be here every single day until you test the site and I think it dawned on them, what are we going to do with Daniel Hill every single day?”

He said the borough council should have instructed the Environment Agency to get the stream tested long ago and had “let the people of Pirbright down”.

He said: “We need to know what this stuff is. People are worried.”

The borough council’s lead councillor for the environment James Steel promised on August 5 the water in the stream next to Mr Hill’s land, alongside a public footpath, would be tested.

He said at the time: “We will continue to work with Surrey County Council and the Environment Agency.

“After listening to residents’ concerns about claims of toxic waste, we will be supporting the Environment Agency as they test the nearby canal and stream for any contamination caused by the illegal waste on site, as is their responsibility.”

But according to the Environment Agency this is not happening. At the end of July the environmental regulator made a visual assessment of both the Stoney Castle site and the stream. But based on appearance it said it did not believe a risk was posed to the environment and did not carry out any sampling.

A spokesperson said: “With regard to testing, having assessed the site, including the stream, and the risk posed to the environment by materials onsite, the EA has not carried out any sampling.”

It has received “in the order of six” incident hotline calls since April relating to the Stoney Castle Ranges site, though could not say if these related to water or to illegal waste.

He added: “We will continue to assess any reports of pollution received within our normal incident reporting procedures.

“The landowner remains the person responsible in ensuring that no pollution is caused by the site.”

It has not been determined where any pollutants are coming from.

A borough council spokesperson said yesterday: “We closed our reception to keep residents, visitors and staff safe while a member of the public held a protest inside of our Millmead Office reception. We will reopen the reception when it is safe to do so.

“The police have visited the office to support the council during the protest.

“The member of the public claims to be protesting about concerns of pollution from the Stoney Castle site in Pirbright.

“We have previously passed these concerns onto the Environment Agency, who are aware of the situation, and are responsible for testing the local stream and canal for contamination. The protester has been advised of this.

“We know of no evidence of such contamination.”

There is a history of illegal waste dumping on the Stoney Castle site. In July the borough council evicted unauthorised occupants, removed “225 tonnes of non-waste materials” and made the site secure.

But behind a padlocked gate and beyond the concrete bollards still lies an enormous pile of rubble.

The borough council said it removed “3,000 litres of unidentified liquids including oils and fuels” and these were “safely disposed of” by its contractors. The EA said it was not aware of these liquids.

Mr Hill said it is not right they were left “unidentified” and has been emailing the council to report that Pirbright residents are concerned for their health. At the end of July the council ordered him to leave its public meeting when he interrupted to raise his concerns.

Affinity Water, the company which supplies water to homes in the area, said it does not extract from streams and does not have any groundwater sources nearby. Otherwise, it said, it would have been testing the water quality in case it had seeped down into the aquifer where groundwater is stored.

Pollution can be reported to the Environment Agency on its free 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.

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