Outrage as MoD refuse to take responsibilty for Dalgety Bay clear up

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by a Newsnet reporter

SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing has condemned the Ministry of Defence for refusing to take responsibility to clean up radiation at Dalgety Bay.  The MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, whose constituency covers Dalgety Bay, says the MoD’s refusal is a “slap in the face to the people of Fife”.

by a Newsnet reporter

SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing has condemned the Ministry of Defence for refusing to take responsibility to clean up radiation at Dalgety Bay.  The MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, whose constituency covers Dalgety Bay, says the MoD’s refusal is a “slap in the face to the people of Fife”.

At a meeting with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), local politicians and residents, the MoD said it was only committed to more investigation and would not pay for temporary emergency measures.  During the meeting scientists from SEPA scientists revealed that there had been more findings of highly radioactive material at the site.

Now SEPA has given the MoD until the end of February to come up with concrete proposals to deal with the problem of radioactive particles washed up on the beach at Dalgety Bay.

SEPA said that if the MoD did not meet the deadline it would have no choce but to declare the land around the foreshore officially contaminated.  It would be the first time in the UK that an area of land will have been declared officially contaminated.  The measure is only put into effect in cases where there is no official plan to clear up the radioactive contamination.

In Dalgety Bay there is no doubt as to the cause of the problem.  The particles come from the remains of WW2 aircraft instrumentation containing the highly radioactive element radium.  At the end of the war the aircraft were scrapped and dumped in landfill on the site, which was the location of an airbase during the war.  

However coastal erosion has caused radioactive particles from the landfill site to leach out into the waters of the Firth of Forth, where they are then washed ashore on the beach at Dalgety Bay.  Some of the particles washed up on the beach give off a dose of radioactivity equivalent to 5,000 X-rays and can cause skin burns.  

Speaking to BBC Scotland, SEPA’s Dr Paul Dale said: “We have set out a timetable that we expect a full draft of the MoD’s plan by the end of January with a final set of plans by the end of February.

“If that isn’t forthcoming, Sepa will continue with its progress to designate the land as contaminated by the end of March.”

In a statement, the MoD said: “We had a constructive meeting today and we will continue to work with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa), the Scottish Executive and the Dalgety Bay Forum.”

After a long public silence, local Labour MP and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown finally spoke on the issue yesterday, issuing a plea for “urgent action” to deal with the problem.  Mr Brown was Chancellor in Tony Blair’s cabinet when concerns about the discovery of radioactive particles on the beach were raised in reports in 2005 and 2006.  His government took no action.

Ms Ewing said that the MoD’s refusal to tackle the problem urgently was “a slap in the face to the people of Fife and surrounding communities.”

The MSP added: “This meeting should have resulted in real action for Dalgety Bay but instead it is the same old story from the MoD refusing to take responsibility for what is rightly theirs.

“Pleas from residents, politicians, environmentalists and SEPA are just falling on deaf ears.

“The MoD owes the people of Fife a remediation plan – along with an explanation on why it is taking so long, causing misery for the people of Fife and surrounding areas.”

Local SNP councillor Alice McGarry also attended the meeting.  Voicing the concerns of local residents she said: “The MoD needs to get its act together.  It is completely unacceptable for them to refuse to take responsibility and refuse to fund a temporary barrier if necessary to prevent further erosion and uncovering of radioactive materials.

“I fully support SEPA who have given the MoD until March to come up with a credible remediation plan and accept responsibility for paying for the clear-up.

“If this does not happen, SEPA will take legal action against the MoD as the “appropriate person” but I would hope the people of Fife get the action they need before it reached this point.”