THE liquid was a greenish yellow – an “abomination”, said one journalist – and it was oozing into the Clyde.

Desperately worried by the toxic legacy of Scotland’s chemical industry, a newspaper editor decided to walk the river’s south bank.

The pollution he discovered shocked Scotland. It still does – 110 years later.

Because the “abomination” still poisoning the Clyde and its tributaries in 2019 was first documented by pioneering investigative journalist Keir Hardie in 1899.

The Herald this week revealed thatofficials believe cancer-causing chromium-VI presents an “immediate and long-term risk to public health”.

Read more: Polmadie Burn: Everyone knew chromium waste was damaging health


J&J White Works before it closed

Regeneration agency Clyde Gateway, in a leaked report, said it needed £54 million to clear the site of a long abandoned chemical works, J&J White in Shawfield, Rutherglen.

Their report included new pictures of a jungle green river under the site and a warning that water polluted by the cancer-causing chemical was leaching from the site every time it rains.

Hardie – who is seen as the founder of Scotland’s Labour movement – had been campaigning for workers at the factory, who he called “White Slaves”.

Many, for generations, suffered horrendous health problems, including the loss of their noses his nose.

His descriptions of the pollution from White’s factory, published in his paper, the Labour Leader, caused a sensation in 1899.

READ MORE: Insurers of record should bear responsibility for toxic environmental legacy

“Around all there is that woebegone, dismal feeling which depresses the spirits and lowers the vitality,” he said of the area around the plant, behind its fortress-like walls, and a coloured pond called Green Goat (an old Scots word for a waterway).

In the pamphleteering style of the day, he wrote: “Here and there a greenish-yellow liquid has oozed out and coats the walls.

“Discharge pipes are flowing the same abomination into the Clyde.

“From various openings revolting looking sluttrage is being tipped on to the causewayed river banks, and this men load into carts and take to the tips – one of the tips being the children’s Green Goats already described. “


Cartoon from Labour leader mocking Lord Overtoun (with thanks to Labour historial Blair McDougall)

The factory at that point was owned by Hardie’s nemesis, John White, Baron

Overtoun, who combined what would now be criminal abuse of his workers and the environment with public philanthropy and Christian piety.

White – and his successors – is now known to have indiscriminately dumped processed ore waste containing chromium VI in pits and quarries across Glasgow and South Lanarkshire. Authorities have been gradually trying to clean up his mess.

They have now hit a funding road block, not least because of Brexit.

Rutherglen’s MP, Ged Killen, is an admirer of Keir Hardie. Yesterday,On Wednesday he challenged Theresa May to ensure the UK Government stepped into the breach.

At Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, Mr Killen said: “More than 50 years since the closure of the J & J White chemical factory in my constituency, the local area is still blighted by carcinogenic hexavalent chromium contamination.

“To date, Clyde Gateway has received £6 million of EU funds to decontaminate and regenerate land, but tens of millions more will be required to complete the work.

“Will the Prime Minister give a commitment that, post Brexit, the UK Government will make similar funding available in the long term to complete that work?”


Green water contaminated by Chromium VI, Shawfield, March 2019

The Prime Minister said she would ask one of her ministers.

Mr Killen has suggested that a park named after White, Overtoun in Rutherglen, should be re-named. After who? The reporter who first broke the story of green poison in the Clyde: Keir Hardie.