A PROBE into arsenic poisoning of cattle alleged by hill farmers in East Lancashire is now said to have raised health fears among pupils at a nearby primary school.
Seven cattle died on moorland above Shawforth and post mortem examinations showed arsenic poisoning was the cause, prompting farmers to blame engineering works for an access road to Crook Hill wind farm, which runs through a former municipal tip.
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And now concerns have been raised at a council meeting regarding sickness levels at St John’s and St Michael Primary, which uses the land for cross-country runs and nature clubs.
The current operators of Crook Hill have insisted that arsenic levels are ‘not abnormal’ on the moors but Rossendale Council environmental health officials are due to conduct further tests on the watercourse.
Cllr Lynda Barnes told the meeting that the school used the area for cross-country runs, nature clubs and after-school activities and the headteacher had planned to stage forest school style classes there next term.
She said: “She is now worried that for the past three months the children have had constant stomach bugs and two have been hospitalised. It is not just the farmers but the whole of the community which is concerned.”
One family had worked the moorlands since the 1890s and were now gravely concerned about reintroducing cattle to nearby common land in six to eight weeks time, councillors heard.
Cllr Barnes said: “Everything was tipped there when the landfill was in operation, including asbestos. It seems to be because it’s not in some people’s back yards, it doesn’t matter.”
Keen walker Stuart Davies, who has raised several issues surrounding the access road, said: “We feel that Rossendale Council’s environmental health people have been dragging their feet. There is broken glass and ash piled up next to the site.”
Protesters have voiced their concerns that the land surrounding the access road, which was approved by Rossendale Council, still does not appear to have been properly reinstated.
Edward Lees, whose wife Janes runs Middle Trough Farm, said they first noticed two of their cattle fall ill last summer.
His brother-in-law Edward Earnshaw, who runs Duckworth Farm, saw six of his herd die and another four or five seriously debilitated. Post-mortem tests showed the fatalities were due to arsenic poisoning.
Mr Lees said: “Since then we have taken ours off the moors but we are in a situation now where the want to return them but we can’t because we don’t think it’s safe or something will happen again. I’ve a son who has his own farm as well and it’s our livelihoods.”
Council leader Cllr Alyson Barnes confirmed that fresh tests are set to be undertaken by environmental health officials over the course of the next week or two, after visiting the site.
“It is clear that there is still a lot of work when it comes to putting this site back to how it was,” she added, pledging that council officials would work with farmers and campaigners to remedy the situation.
Wind turbines at Crook Hill are positioned within the boundaries of Rochdale borough. Originally the access road was going to be taken off land between Walsden and Littleborough, before a track was laid off Landgate.
A spokesman for Partnerships for Renewables (PfR) which owns the nearby Crook Hill wind farm said: “The grazing area of the moor is significantly larger than the Crook Hill wind farm footprint.
“PfR has had samples from watercourses around the wind farm independently tested with all results showing no detectable levels of arsenic present.”