By a Newsnet reporter
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has latched onto a report that blames the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for the radioactive pollution that has blighted a Scottish shoreline.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has concluded that the radioactive contamination that has led to the closure of Dalgety Bay in Fife was caused by the actions of the MoD.
In its report, SEPA has pointed to radioactive materials which were routinely incinerated and buried in the area surrounding the Bay.
Sepa’s report stated: “The luminising of aircraft instrument dials using paint containing radium-226 was routinely undertaken at HMS Merlin. This was common practice at such sites and is supported by witness statements.
“It is also understood that solid wastes arising were incinerated and disposed on site. Again this was common practice and witness statements recount the burning of dials and other cockpit parts with ashes being disposed near the shore.
“The contamination is the result of disposal of contaminated ash during the lifetime of HMS Merlin and this has been identified at depth in the Headland, Boat Park and Demarcated areas with no evidence that this material, deposited prior to 1959, has been significantly disturbed other than by coastal action.
“Contamination on the foreshore at Dalgety Bay is the result of erosion of deposited material and subsequent re-working and re-deposition of contaminated marine sediments resulting from coastal erosion, a process which is considered to be a normal part of life.”
Dr James Gemmill, Sepa’s radioactive substances unit manager, said: “The Appropriate Persons report was necessary to clarify responsibilities for the contamination at Dalgety Bay and determine which parties need to address the issue.
“A lot of work has been put into compiling the report and it, along with the previous risk assessment report, represents another significant step forward to resolving the situation at Dalgety Bay.
“Our aim is to reach a conclusion that will benefit all parties, particularly the local community, and we will be discussing all possible options with the MoD in order to agree a robust, long-term management strategy for addressing the contamination.”
Former UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown who is also the local MP, has now belatedly said the MoD has a “moral duty” to clean up the site.
“Having been named as the polluter, the Ministry of Defence must now agree to fund the clean-up of the area to remove the contaminated substances from the Dalgety Bay beach, and the work must start immediately,” he said.
However, as revealed by Newsnet Scotland as far back as December 2011, the Labour MP did little to facilitate a clean-up of the area when he was Prime Minister, despite being made aware of the issue two years earlier.
In 2009 when Mr Brown was Prime Minister, the MoD’s own scientists refused to analyse material from the site because of the risk it could give them cancer. Despite this, the MoD continued to resist pressure to pay for a clean-up of the radioactive pollution.
In 2011, the Ministry also continued to play down the possible health risks for members of the public even though official minutes from a meeting in 2009 revealed that MoD scientists had such grave concerns over the contamination that they refused to handle it.
In 2011, Gordon Brown made a rare appearance in the House of Commons and bizarrely gave a speech calling for a debate on the issue, suggesting the seriousness of the situation was new.
Mr Brown said: “I call this debate for one purpose and one purpose only, to persuade the Ministry of Defence of the need for urgent action in an area in my constituency where radioactive materials have been discovered.
“The affected land on the shores of the Firth of Forth, occupied by and near to Dalgety Bay Sailing Club, is a few yards from people’s homes, it’s nearby where children play, it’s an area where many go for walks.”
In November 2011, the MoD refused to accept responsibility for the contamination, something condemned by SNP MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife Annabelle Ewing. In 2012, the MSP also revealed how Westminster knew of the contamination half a century ago, but kept the revelations secret.
Commenting on the conclusions of the SEPA report, the SNP MSP said:
“We always knew that the MoD was responsible for the pollution at Dalgety Bay, and these conclusions from the SEPA investigation reinforce this knowledge.
“There can be no more excuses from the MoD – we need it to fund and carry out an immediate clean-up at Dalgety.
“Pleas from residents, politicians, environmentalists and SEPA have fallen on deaf ears before but we cannot continue down that route.
“The MoD owes the people of Fife a remediation plan – along with an explanation on why it has refused to take responsibility before, causing misery for the people of Fife and surrounding areas.
“SEPA has done a fantastic job with this investigation but now we need the MoD to get its act together.”
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