RIVAL Labour and SNP politicians are uniting forces in an urgent bid to clean up an “Erin Brockovich-style” environmental disaster after it emerged money for the operation has dried up.

Tens of millions of pounds are needed to continue cleaning up a century-old toxic disaster on the Clyde, authorities have warned, long after experts first warned that Scotland faces a major bill to decontaminate dumps of cancer-causing chemicals in and near Glasgow.

But now a major regeneration quango has warned it does not have the money needed to clear chromium-VI, the poison made famous by the Hollywood film about Californian anti-pollution campaigner Erin Brockovich.

Clyde Gateway says it lacks “tens of millions” it needs to make safe the former J&J White Chemical factory in Shawfield, Rutherglen, which shut in 1967.


The agency’s announcement came after authorities closed off an entire stream in nearby Oatlands, Glasgow. Polmadie Burn turned green last month allegedly due to chromium-VI washed from Shawfield across the council border in South Lanarkshire. The discoloration is caused by the chemical reacting with water.

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Local SNP and Labour MPs have now joined forces to urge additional public cash for the work, especially as Brexit closed down long-standing European Union funding for Scotland’s decontamination efforts

Glasgow Central’s Alison Thewliss MP said: “There is a huge post-industrial legacy here to be looked at, with chromium being dumped across this area. There is a now a duty to clean that up. I don’t think anybody quite realised when we got in to the regeneration of the area quite what the scale of the problem was. It is now for all parties to get together to find a solution for this. My constituents are worried – and rightly so.”

Clyde Gateway in May will begin work injecting chemicals to neutralise the chromium-VI over a 2.5-hectare part of what it calls Shawfield Phase 2, a 30-hectare slice of Rutherglen where J&J White was based.

It will spent £5 million on this plot alone – suggesting the final bill to clean up the site could be around £60m.

The agency’s Jim Clark said: “Everyone has long been aware that it would take tens of millions of pounds to fully remediate Shawfield Phase 2 and that Clyde Gateway itself does not have those sums of money.

“It was always going to be the case that we would require further discussions with the Scottish Government, as our main funder, and with the two councils and Scottish Enterprise as our partners, to find a way forward to complete the works over the remaining decade that Clyde Gateway is due to be in existence.

“We are always ready to come to that particular table.”


Clyde Gateway, watchdog Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) and councils are currently trying to redirect an underground river which passes through the site.

The West Burn has been carrying chromium-VI into the Polmadie Burn in Oatlands. Residents have been urging action – and demanding to know why the seat of this poison – J&J White’s former plant – was not detoxified.

Rutherglen’s MP, Labour’s Ged Killen, said the poisoning of Polmadie was “a real visual representation” of what was happening across the region.

He said: “In places in Rutherglen,the only indication that there has been any toxic legacy would be the warning signs. A lot of them have gone now. But to see green water in a lovely scenic area like this really puts into context what we are dealing with.”

Mr Killen admitted there would be difficult spending decisions to be made in the short-term, but said decontamination would help bring the land back into productive economic use.

He added: “That will generate a return in the long-term. But you have got to ask yourself what price you put on people’s health and the environment. We don’t really have any option but to spend that money on getting this resolved.”

Mr Killen reckons it is the Scottish Government that will end up footing the bill. His SNP colleague Ms Thewliss stressed there was a lack of clarity, ahead of Brexit, of how the UK Government would replace EU funding on the environment.

She said: “We have to look at all sources of funding whether that is the councils or the Scottish or Westminster governments.” Both MPs complained there was no way to make the polluter, J&J White, pay.

Ms Thewliss said: “This is waste that was dumped by a very irresponsible group of people in the past.”

Clyde Gateway said it had been set up to deal with this kind of market failure. It described Scottish Government support as “generous”.

The quango has used local, national and EU public money to clear chromium-VI from a first slice of Shawfield, the Phase 1 regeneration. This site is now a half-built office park by the Clyde. South Lanarkshire’s Pauline Elliott stressed her authority had helped to fund this.

But she added: “Clyde Gateway continues to seek additional funding from its partners and the Scottish Government to tackle the scale of remediation works at Shawfield.”

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “Historical ground contamination at the Shawfield site does remain an issue, but there are plans in place for further work to be undertaken to remediate a portion of the land there in the near future.

“We will continue to support Clyde Gateway’s on-going efforts to address the issues at this site, and across the wider area, in whatever way we can.”

The Scottish Government did not make a specific response to Clyde Gateway’s warnings that it could not pay for the Shawfield clean-up.

A spokesman, however, said: “Work is ongoing amongst a number of partner agencies, which we hope will produce major environmental benefits, support economic regeneration and reduce chromium pollution, including a significant programme of work to reduce the impact of chromium contamination on local watercourses.”