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Environment and History

The Control of Alkali Pollution in St. Helens, 1862-1890

Richard Hawes

Environment and History 1(1995): 159-171

The attempts of Angus Smith and his colleagues to control alkali pollution after 1863 are usually seen as being a success. This study of St. Helens, Lancashire, once an important centre of soda production, shows that although the alkali inspectors were eventually able to limit the release of hydrochloric acid gas, they found great difficulty in curbing the generation of other noxious fumes, particularly hydrogen sulphide. Despite the intervention of the town council, prohibitive legislation and many critical reports, the manufacturers were reluctant to adopt a technique of sulphur recovery or to change the way they dumped their waste acid. Local economic importance proved to be sufficiently powerful to deflect regulation from any source.

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