Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Thor's Hammer

I was coming back from Deal at 12:30 when I heard the Sky News helicopter working its way along the coast towards Margate. "What's happening over there", I asked. "A chemical fire apparently", replied the pilot.

A little later and it appears that an explosion at Thor Chemicals at about 10am on Chapel Hill caused a local emergency and needed six fire crews from around Thanet to get it under control.

It's reported that a 300m cordon was put in place around the area, which has since been lifted.

Police have confirmed that there were no reported casualties. All staff at the factory have been accounted for.


Anonymous said...

Now might be a good time to resolve if Red Mercury really exists ? A few years ago there was a TV documentary alleging that Thor Chemicals at Margate were suspected of making it. The programme was about the murders of a number of Thor directors in South Africa and included a spokesman from South African police saying his main suspect was the Israeli Secret Service Mossad. (Ie Those particularly interested in the matter of whether saddam hjad weapons of mass destruction such as a nuclear capability)

a ballotechnic mercury compound which just happens to be red in colour. Ballotechnics are substances which react very energetically when subjected to shock compression at high pressure. They include mercury antimony oxide which, according to some reports, is a cherry red semi-liquid produced in Russian nuclear reactors. This theory contends that it is so explosive that a fusion reaction - a nuclear explosion - can be triggered even without fissionable material such as uranium.

Anonymous said...

If Tony Beachcomber pays site a visit. What was that about water tables in the Poorhole Lane area ?

Anonymous said...

Here is a copy of a press report re judgement:

UK Judges Block Thor Chemicals Manoeuvre
Report by Greg Dropkin
Published: 02/10/00

Thor transferred mercury production to Natal in 1988 after the UK Health and Safety Executive severely criticised safety standards at their Margate plant.

For 8 years the UK multinational Thor Chemicals has denied liability in the spate of mercury poisonings amongst its South African workforce, though it did reach an out of court settlement with 20 victims and widows in 1997. Now Appeal Court judges in London have ordered Thor to deposit £400,000 with the Court and produce documents regarding a demerger manouevre, by Thursday.

Thor Chemicals Holdings Ltd. and its former Chairman and Director Desmond Cowley face compensation claims in London from 20 South African employees who allege mercury poisoning due to unsafe production methods at the company’s Cato Ridge plant in Natal.

A 6 week trial is due to begin on 11 Oct.

The company reached a £1.3 million out-of-court settlement with a previous group of Cato Ridge workers and widows in 1997, five years after occupational health experts found mercury-in-urine levels up to 12 times the World Health Organisation action levels.

The current claimants were “chronically exposed to high levels of mercury during their employment with Thor” and suffered neurological symptoms including sexual dysfunction, tiredness, quick tempers and severe memory problems according to South African Medical Research Council specialist Mark Colvin.

Work hazards and environmental pollution from leaking mercury drums stored on site have made the South African operation a long-running unresolved international scandal.

By the time the current claims were lodged in 1998 Thor had demerged the holding company, transferring the bulk of assets to the new Tato Holdings whose shareholders include 3i Investment Trust. Rather than paying cash, Tato gave shares worth £19.55 million to Eurotrust, the controlling interest in Thor Chemicals Holdings. Desmond Cowley’s family are the main beneficiaries of the Jersey-registered Eurotrust.

Thor Chemicals assets plunged from £19 million in 1994 to £2.5 million in 1998.

The deal only came to light early this year after company lawyers Beachcrofts informed the victims’ solicitors Leigh Day & Co. that “should [Thor] fail in these proceedings as against all Claimants then the assets of the Company will be insufficient to meet those liabilities” while Cowley’s “personal assets are extremely limited”.

Thor Chemical’s apparent insolvency threatened the mercury victims’ compensation claim as Legal Aid would be withdrawn without assurances that costs would be met by Thor if the trial succeeded.

In return, the victims claimed the entire Tato deal had violated Section 423 of the Companies Act because the dominant purpose of the demerger had been to defraud creditors such as themselves.

On Thursday morning a statement from Cowley unexpectedly told the Court that he had believed that following the 1997 settlement there would be no further claims.

By contrast, in 1998 the Guardian’s sister paper in South Africa quoted an un-named Thor representative as stating “We knew they were likely to come through with another bite, but we did not admit liability in the last case.”

In a unanimous decision, Lord Justices Waller, Walker and Laws ordered Thor to disclose documents regarding the 1997 restructuring and to pay £400,000 into court to protect the interests of claimants and the Legal Services Commission. Thor has until 5 October to comply, failing which the company will be debarred from defending the case at trial.

Anonymous said...

Explosion at factory injures 10
Independent, The (London), Jan 30, 2001
AN EXPLOSION at a ceramics factory near Glasgow yesterday injured 10 people, ambulance staff said. Some of the injuries were thought to be chemical burns. The blast was at the Thor plant in Whitecrook, Clydebank.

Anonymous said...

Date: 19 October 2007 Issue Number: 58487 Page number: 15153

Publication Date: Friday, 19 October 2007

Notice Code: 2432

Appointment of Liquidators

Company Number: 3110223.


Previous Name of Company: Thor Group Management Limited, Thor Chemicals Group Management Limited, Speed 5107 Limited, Thor Group Limited.

Type of Liquidation: Members.

Address of Registered Office: Merchant Exchange, Whitworth Street West, Manchester M1 5WG.

Liquidator's Name and Address: Tim Alan Askham, of Mazars, Merchant Exchange, Whitworth Street West, Manchester M1 5WG

Office Holder Number: 007905.

Date of Appointment: 28 September 2007.

By whom Appointed: Members.


DrMoores said...

Thor Chemicals - Statement issued by Roger Gale MP

"Following the chemical explosion at the Thor Chemicals plant in Margate at approximately 09.45 on Wednesday, I have spent some time with the Area Commander, Superintendent Peter West and the Silver Commander, Inspector Lee Russell, in the Special Incident Room at Margate Police Station where Kent Police, Kent Fire & Rescue Service and Thanet District Council were working, together with Kent Ambulance Service, to co-ordinate the response to the incident.

The area was declared safe, and plans for possible evacuation stood down, before 13.00 and I would like immediately to pay tribute to the Silver Commander and all of the emergency services for their exemplary performance.

Thanks are also due to those living in the immediate neighbourhood, to the staff of the QEQM hospital and to the public that were inconvenienced by necessary road closures for their patience and forbearance. That what could have been a tragic occurrence was contained without serious injury or loss of life and brought so swiftly under control should be a source of satisfaction for all involved.

Comment has been made concerning the location of the Thor enterprise.

Planning consent for this industrial use was lawfully passed many years ago and there is no member of the local authority currently in post who participated in the original decision. The present Council, therefore, bears no responsibility for the siting of the plant.

When I first became a Member of Parliament I represented constituents` interests relating to the siting of storage tanks at the factory. Those issues were satisfactorily resolved and to my knowledge there has, until today, been no major or minor untoward incident arising from the operation of Thor Chemicals.
We must, however, learn all the necessary lessons from this experience. The Health & Safety Executive will conduct the enquiries necessary to establish the cause of the explosion, any lessons that need to be learned will have to be taken on board and any recommended measures taken to prevent the possibility of a recurrence.

We have been fortunate in that this episode did not lead to more disastrous consequences and we cannot allow any degree of complacency to mask what might have been a much more serious event."

Anonymous said...

The water tables referred to above in Poorhole lane relates to the sites former occupiers Sericol. They had a large underground tank containing solvent which leaked. I can't recall the solvent, possibly cyclo-hexane. They initially accused the employees of stealing it. The leak had been there for some time before being discovered. They eventually reached an agreement I believe with TDC and the Environment Agency to clean the site after they moved to Pysons road.

James Maskell said...

The traffic was terrible yesterday due to this. The Victoria Lights is bad enough at the moment with the constant digging up of College Road (between the double roundabout by the Animal Hospital and the Victoria Lights) theyve been working now for 7 months. Its not that big a piece of road. I understand that there are problems at Coffin Corner now with a lane at College Road (coming up towards Coffin corner) out of action.

KCC really needs to sort this out.

Tony Beachcomber said...

Poorhole lane

Regarding the poor hole lane water table, I can recall that a test bore took place at the old sericol site and it was discovered that the solvent had turned the chalk pink. The water table had not been reached but the contamination was nipped in the bud. What was realy interesting was when the sericol poorhole lane was cleared was the find of earthernware ginger beer bottles in a pit. These bottles were from the ozonic mineral water company from 1934.

Thors Chemicals

All the soil from the Thor chemical operation in the late seventies /early eighties was removed when the warehouse extension was built. The only true soil samples of that period is the small strip of soil inside the fence of the old steelcase/harvey site adjacent to where the processing took place. That would be conclusive evidence of what took place.

A lot of the complaints from Thor chemicals in the mid nineties was due to the smell. This was due to a chemical that would rapidly decompose when in contact with air. The smell was that strong it would cure the world's worst hangover instantly .

The only mercury process on the Thor site was the production of mercury fulmanate used for detonators. Mind you it was interesting watching the plant operating at 03:00 during that period and wondering what the unmarked land rovers where doing on the site at the time.

But then as the whole site comes under the HMIP there is not a lot the local authority can do. It was HMIP up until the 1990's but I do not know the status is now. Does anyone know?

Tony Beachcomber said...

I forgot to mention that I did have a fine collection of photographs of the early 1990's processing and records of the codes on the chemical drums.
There wasn't much of a story in it as the processes I believe were bleach based chemicals. I gave all my records, photographs and negatives to a greenpeace represntative for their archive.