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29 May 2003 09:00

Safety probe at Nat-Semi

OFFICERS from the Health and Safety Executive are inspecting National Semiconductor today after fears of a chemical leak sparked a full-scale alert at the Greenock plant. Production halted yesterday morning, after a call for an ambulance to take three workers to hospital resulted in a chemical response team being sent to the factory. Now managing director Gerry Edwards is demanding a meeting with health chiefs, claiming the ambulance service over-reacted to their request for help after a woman fainted and another woman and man felt ill. He claims the ambulance service quizzed a first aider, asking if the employees had been contaminated or if they worked with chemicals. He confirmed that they said they did work with chemicals, but he wasn"t aware that there had been a chemical leakage. Mr Edwards said: 'This was an over-reaction.' A spokesman for the company later added that Mr Edwards was taken by surprise by the way the incident had escalated and was not critical of the emergency services, but wanted to review how incidents are reported to get appropriate medical help. An ambulance service spokesperson said: 'We deployed the appropriate resources in response to the symptoms being described over the phone and the possibility of a chemical spillage.' Gerry Doherty, assistant divisional officer with Strathclyde Fire Brigade said: 'No hazardous materials in respect of a leak or spillage were found in the factory.' A Nat-Semi spokeswoman said today: 'After a thorough investigation today by National Semiconductor"s response team and the emergency services, no faults were found in the factory. Production restarted at 9.30 last night.'
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29 May 2003 09:00

Drama unfolds at plant

NATIONAL Semiconductor"s Greenock plant was at the centre of a full-scale alert yesterday amid fears that three workers had been contaminated in a chemical spill. Fire crews, ambulances, police and a specialist paramedic decontamination unit rushed to the factory after a woman working in the 'wet deck' area fainted and two other members of staff - a man and a woman - complained of feeling unwell. The emergency services, called by the ambulance crews when it was revealed the workers had been near potentially dangerous materials, sent three fire engines and a unit of officers trained to deal with chemical alerts. Wearing rubber suits that protect them from hazardous materials, the firemen checked the area where the woman had been working. Police cordoned off a large area of the plant"s grounds for most of the morning. The decontamination unit was set up outside by specialist ambulance crews to treat the three workers. It was made up of two tents which housed portable water sprays and powerful detergent to clean the workers. While Strathclyde Fire Brigade"s Technical Support Unit checked the plant for any possible chemical or radioactive contamination, the three people were taken to a medical area where they were checked by first aid personnel. They were then strapped to trolleys and wheeled to the decontamination tents. Inside, they were stripped by paramedics wearing full environmental protection suits and scrubbed with warm water and detergent. Their clothes, which could also have been contaminated with lethal substances, were separated into plastic bags outside. After the decontamination process was complete they were escorted into ambulances, attached to the unit by a long tarpaulin, and rushed to hospital. Two of those taken to hospital were allowed home yesterday.
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29 May 2003 09:00

Mane attraction

PUPILS got in the saddle at Ardgowan Riding Centre in Inverkip as part of a sports project to encourage youngsters to become more active. First-year children from Greenock High have been attending the centre as part of the school sports co-ordinator scheme to give them the chance to try out new activities. Eight children have been learning how to ride and look after the horses in the six-week pilot project. Kerry Blance, who is a languages teacher at the school and a sports co-ordinator, said: 'It gives children a taster of a sport they might not have thought of trying before. 'We hope it will also forge links with the centre and might encourage pupils to take up horse riding in their own time.' She added that the sports project, which has been running for the past three years with money from the lottery and sportscotland, had been very successful and bids were already in place to secure funding permanently. Kevin McAllister, who wants to be a vet, said: 'It"s really enjoyable. It means you can learn about what the different parts of the horse are called.' Instructor Emma Wright said: 'They are all doing very well and are enjoying their time here.' Greenock Academy pupils have also been attending the centre as part of their activities week.
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29 May 2003 09:00

Wind farm backers reject noise claims

THE developers of a proposed wind farm behind Greenock today denied that they have done a u-turn over noise levels. Protest group "Keep Corlic Wild" say Airtricity originally promised that the speed of the turbine blades would be the same in all winds to keep down noise. But now the group say the speed will be 'variable'. Airtricity want to build 23 turbines on Corlic Hill, each of them 312-feet high. The apparent difference of opinion was highlighted today by Corlic group member Bill Riddell, who said: 'Airtricity produced a leaflet at their information day in the Strone in March. It said that the aerodynamic noise created by the blades cutting the air cannot be completely eliminated, but is greatly reduced by the control of the blade speed. 'The leaflet said: "This is one of the reasons the turbine blade speed is constant in all wind speeds".' But he pointed out that information now produced by Airtricity in their environmental impact assessment is different. It states: 'Rotational speed is from 9 to 17 rotations per minute. The blades are carefully designed to minimise noise.' Airtricity development engineer, Shane King, said: 'The speed builds up to a constant level of about 17. It takes about 30 seconds to reach that speed.' Mr Riddell also said a report from the Dutch university of Groningen casts serious doubts on Airtricity"s assurances that turbine sound levels will not create a nuisance to residents living within 800 to 1,200 metres. Mr Riddell said: 'The nearest house to Corlic will be 800 metres away, but ScottishPower specify a minimum distance of 1,000 metres between houses and their own turbines.' Mr King replied: 'Different turbines have different outputs. We are working to the strictest government guidelines.'
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28 May 2003 09:00

Attempts to trace family and friends

ALLISON CLINE from Canada is trying to track down her family"s Greenock connection. She has 'run into a brick wall' and hopes readers may be able to assist. Allison tells me: 'My great grandmother Elizabeth Gillespie was born to Joseph Gillespie and Jean McDougall sometime in the 1850s but can find no record of her birth, no record of a christening and no record of her parents" marriage although the census records state that all three of them were born in Greenock. 'Joseph Gillespie was a blacksmith and I have located him in the 1851 census as living in Greenock, single and 40 years of age. 'Elizabeth married William Brown and lived in Greenock where my great grandfather worked as a railway fireman and then returned to being a sailor. He died at sea in 1886. 'They had two sons, Robert and George Brown, who were evetuanlly sent to Canada through Quarriers.' Allison will be coming to Scotland for the first time in September and would be delighted to meeting a member of her family or even see a gravestone relating to her great-great grandparents. She can be contacted as 2356 Grenoble, Unit 8, Pepertree Village, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada P3A 4M5. Alternatively, her e-mail address is:allison.cline@city.greatersudbury.on.ca Meanwhile, Frances Sheker, nee Willey, a Greenockian now living in the States, is trying to contact old friends. She is hoping to hear from a former Greenock couple who moved to Bedford and then bought a house in Inverkip. The couple are Jean, nee Mountain, and Hugh. Please give me a call if you can help.
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28 May 2003 09:00

Full-scale alert hits Nat-Semi

HUNDREDS of National Semiconductor wor- kers were evacuated this morning and several taken to hospital after an emergency alert. Fire engines - including a decontamination unit - and ambulances raced to the Greenock computer chip plant after a worker fainted in a cleaning and processing area and others complained about feeling unwell. A company spokesman said he was unable to comment on reports of a leak at the Larkfield Industrial Estate factory. He said: 'Our emergency response team went into action immediately. We are still at the early stage of trying to find out what happened. We are trying to understand the implications. Our concerns are with the individuals involved.' He added: 'All appropriate precautions were implemented and some people have been taken to hospital.' A worker said: 'Someone fainted in the clean-up area and others complained they were feeling unwell. Production was stopped by management at 9am.' Around 550 workers were evacuated from the "wet deck" area and moved into the plant"s canteen. Transco said they had no reports of a gas leak.
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28 May 2003 09:00

Axe hangs over primary school

SPRINGFIELD Primary School in Greenock will close in June next year under initial new education proposals to be discussed today. Under the plan, put forward by the new education convener Councillor Jim Mitchell, Springfield pupils will transfer to Larkfield Primary School at the start of the following school year. There are currently 122 pupils on the roll at Springfield and 116 at Larkfield, though Larkfield has 256 places. If the closure goes ahead, Springfield Primary will be the first school to shut in a shake-up of education in Inverclyde - which is going ahead despite the jettisoning by the Liberal Democrats of the previous Labour council"s public private partnership scheme. But how the new plans - which include initial proposals for new primary schools in Robert Street, Port Glasgow, and Gilmour Street, Greenock - are to be financed is not yet known. A report to today"s education meeting said that while no further time would be spent processing PPP for education, neither would there be any consideration given to a 'not for profit trust' for education - the route followed by other councils who have rejected PPP. It added that officials be instructed to investigate all other ways of raising funds. And in a move to cut costs, the report recommended that the services of outside consultants for legal and financial services should be dispensed with.
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28 May 2003 09:00

"Drivers are doing 70mph in 30 limit"

RESIDENTS have branded Greenock"s Lyle Road 'a race track' and say it is only a matter of time before someone is killed by speeding motorists. Now they are calling for speed traps in a bid to solve the problem. New dad Iain Miller, who has lived in the street for the last three years, said the problem seems to be getting worse. He is planning to build a driveway to enable him to park his car off the road. He said several neighbours have suffered from the effects of out of control cars which have caused damage to gardens and several parked cars over the past few years. Thirty-one year old Iain, who works as a buyer for an electronics company, said: 'If, from time to time, the police would set up speed traps, people might have second thoughts about coming over the hill at speed.' He added his concerns about safety had been heightened since the birth of baby Ella seven weeks ago. He said: 'I am concerned about my car being parked in the street but, more importantly, my wife Fiona is now walking up the hill with the pram regularly.' He claimed motorists were often driving at 70 miles per hour and above in the 30mph zone and added: 'I think someone is going to be killed before long. 'You never see the police up there. If you are doing 35mph along East Hamilton Street you will get done but, if drivers do 70mph over Lyle Hill, there is no one there and this is a residential area. 'We have seen a lot more speeding motorists throughout the night recently because we have been up feeding the baby. It is like a race track.' Neighbour William Gamble said he had lived in the road for 30 years. 'It has been getting worse over the past couple of years. As soon as they come over the hill they just put their foot down.' Another neighbour, Scott Lindsay (28), who works as a clerical assistant, said something had to be done and suggested road bumps could be the answer. Inspector John Malcolm of the traffic department at Greenock police station said: 'There have been complaints and we have carried out surveys in the past. There is not a constant speeding issue. From time to time excessive speeds have been recorded and we will give the area extra attention.'
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