ICI told to get its act together

Following the two incidents at Runcorn and Wilton in early May, the Agency called an "urgent high-level meeting" with ICI on 20 May. The company's delegation was headed by Richard Stillwell, the Director responsible for health, safety and the environment, and Adrian Bromley, Chief Executive Officer of ICI's Chemicals & Polymers business.

The Agency accepted ICI's proposals for improving C&P's performance. However, it also asked the company to introduce further measures at all its UK operations. ICI proposed that:

  • All major environmental incidents would be reported to Mr Bromley within 24 hours, and to Mr Stillwell within 48 hours.

  • Any proposal to extend the completion deadline for environmental improvement programmes will need approval from Mr Bromley. Several major schemes - notably the £50 million "environmental improvement project" at Runcorn - have slipped behind schedule.

  • Monthly site meetings to review implementation of environmental audits, notifiable releases, and progress with maintenance programmes - including those for spill containment systems.

  • Steps to reinforce staff accountability.

  • A review of environmental management systems.

    The Agency asked ICI to:

  • Apply similar measures to those listed above to all its sites in England and Wales - "where applicable".

  • Appoint independent consultants to carry out a risk assessment of the Runcorn and Teesside operations to ensure that corrective action is effective. The Agency will help set the parameters of this work and will review the results. This requirement goes further than ICI's move to set up an internal "environmental task force" to investigate the recent incidents.

  • Strengthen reporting of "near miss" incidents.

  • Review capital and maintenance programmes for all individual sites - and "make adjustments to minimise the likely recurrence of environmentally damaging incidents." The move reflects a suspicion that ICI's expenditure on environmental improvements and preventive maintenance may have suffered under commercial pressures.

  • Improve general housekeeping measures at the Runcorn works.

    However, the Agency has made no specific demands for improved measures to contain or intercept spills at Runcorn. The lack of containment facilities has been a recurring theme in many incidents over the years.

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