Plan to tackle Scottish beach World War II radiation welcomed

Environment officials have welcomed a Ministry of Defence (MoD) plan to survey radiation levels on a popular Scottish beach contaminated by dumped World War II aircraft equipment.

Defence Estates (DE), part of the MoD, wrote to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) this month with a timetable for a monitoring and retrieval plan for Dalgety Bay in Fife.

The agency says it will give the public “greater protection from the potential risk from radium contamination”.

Byron Tilly, SEPA radioactive substances manager, said: “In essence, we are content with the timetable submitted by Defence Estates, providing that the capability of the monitoring systems meets the levels recommended by SEPA to Defence Estates.

“Such requirements are consistent with those for other beaches in Scotland and will ensure that the public is appropriately protected.”

It is the latest development in a long running saga since the discovery of radiation there in 1990.

A DE spokesman said: “We are pleased with SEPA’s response to our detailed action plan which will identify the need for further work and determine any necessary remediation.

“The Dalgety Bay Forum has already recognised our package of proposals as a positive way forward and we will continue to work in partnership with the forum and SEPA to resolve this issue.”

Work is due to begin with four weeks with the findings made available later this year, DE added.

Dalgety Bay was the site of a former World War II airfield, where aircraft were dismantled.

Plane dials were coated with luminous radioactive metal radium so they could be read at night.

When the planes were broken up the dials were burnt along with other waste and dumped in landfill understood to have been used to reclaim the foreshore, part of the Firth of Forth.

SEPA says 39 radioactive items were detected there last September in one of a number of surveys carried out on the beach since radiation was discovered there.

It has said the dose would be low for an adult but a potentially “significant hazard” for a child.

The MoD has previously questioned SEPAs research but has pledged to meet its responsibilities “in regard to contamination at Dalgety Bay”.

In a letter to Mr Tilly last Friday (March 12), Iain Robertson, a DE senior estate advisor, described the aim of “these voluntary works” as being “in part to establish any further requirement for remedial action”.

DE has put up signs warning beach goers of the radioactive contamination and the potential health risk, advising them not to remove beach materials and to wash their hands on leaving.

The Dalgety Bay Forum includes representatives from SEPA, the Scottish government, Defence Estates, the Health Protection Agency, NHS Fife, Fife Council, the Community Council, the landowners and the Dalgety Bay Sailing Club.

David Gibbs

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie