Contamination closes Tyneside shoreline

The public are being warned to steer clear of a stretch of shoreline of the River Tyne which has been found to be contaminated with a cocktail of chemicals.

Newcastle City Council has erected signs along part of the Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail – a popular route with walkers – warning people not to stray too close to the river’s edge, particularly during low tide.

The contaminated stretch is near an old tar works and hazardous industrial chemicals including benzene and naphthalene have soaked into the shore.

The local authority says it is safe to use the pathway itself, but that entering the contaminated site itself could cause minor health problems such as skin irritation.

The chemicals are at relatively low concentrations there is no risk of acute health problems without long-term exposure.

A team of experts from bodies including Newcastle City Council, the Health Protection Agency, Newcastle Primary Care Trust and Newcastle University are working together to keep the public safe and begin a process to clean up the site.

Newcastle City Council’s director of regulatory services and public protection Stephen Savage said: “The City continues to remediate areas of land contaminated as a result of our industrial heritage and we await confirmation of government funding so that we can start the clean-up process as soon as possible.”

Health Protection Agency consultant in health protection Dr Meng Khaw said: “Although concentrations found are below the levels which cause immediate serious health effects, they can be hazardous if absorbed in high enough quantities or over long periods of time and direct contact with them can cause skin irritation. Because of this we are advising people to stay off the shore until it has been cleaned up.”

Sam Bond

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