Council to launch investigation into contaminated land concerns after flood death

A council has agreed to investigate whether land surrounding a family home is contaminated, seven years after a child died in the aftermath of a flood.

Seven-year-old Zane Gbangbola died in February 2014 and his father Kye was paralysed from the waist down when floodwater from a lake entered the soil basement of their  home in Chertsey, Surrey, over a number of days during widespread flooding in the area. 

Zane’s family says hydrogen cyanide from a local landfill killed their son, but on the same day as Zane’s death, a government source briefed the media that carbon monoxide (CO) was the cause of death. 

In September, Public Health England (PHE) incident logs emerged, in which officials expressed surprise at the reports because CO had not been recorded and there had been no post mortem on the child by the time of the government announcement. 

A coroner inquest found that CO was the cause of death. It was found that a petrol-powered pump, which the parents say they did not use was the source of the CO. 

The PHE logs prompted Spelthorne Borough Council to take another look at the case. 

In a meeting on 3 November, a number of members expressed the view that the land should be further investigated to ensure it was safe and provide reassurance to the public.  

Members also discussed how the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service had taken four recordings of hydrogen cyanide (HCN) in the property on the day of the flood.

Questions were also raised about a 2010 report that was prepared as part of a planning application by the Environment Agency to rebuild a lock keeper's hut next door to Zane's house in Thameside.

According to a BBC report, the document said "potential contaminants of concern" from the historic landfill site included carbon dioxide and methane generated by landfill material, as well as leachable contaminants such as heavy metals.

However, councillors heard that this had been downgraded to not an unacceptable risk by the time the coroner’s report was issued.  

The council also announced it had submitted an FOI request to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) early in November, following the BBC’s report that a whistleblower from the MoD had stated that he believed sub-contractors had dumped waste chemicals in the gravel pits behind Thameside which he considered could produce cyanide.