CUTTING off access to the popular beach at Dalgety Bay should be considered as part of any bid to clear up radioactive contamination, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been told.
Permanently fencing off part of the Fife beach and concreting it over have emerged as the most feasible options for addressing long-running concerns about the pollution, a report by engineering firm Amec stated.
Removing the contamination through excavation was possible but was considered difficult because of tidal movement and access problems.
The use of “biotreatment” was ruled out by Amec, which had been asked to look into the options for the area surrounding the Dalgety Bay Sailing Club, next to the former Royal Navy air station at Donibristle.
The MoD is said to have discarded the ashes of aircraft instruments painted with luminous radium-226 on the eastern coastal margins of Dalgety Bay.
The 11-acre area affected covers beach, tidal zone and vegetation, and includes the sailing clubhouse, stores, jetties, slipways and a sewage outfall.
The potential risk to those using the area for recreation is “significant”, the Amec report warned.
It concluded that no single technique was best suited to the management of radium contamination, “rather a combination of techniques is likely to be required”.
It proposed permanent use of “robust” fencing and warning signs, a “clean cover layer” over the site and excavation of source material.
The best approach would be a “suitable combination” of the three, it said.
The report was published by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa), which has placed the blame for the contamination squarely on the MoD’s shoulders.
Calum MacDonald, executive director of Sepa, said: “This report outlines the extent of management options which could be adopted at the site, ranging from excluding the public from some areas to encapsulating and/or removing the contamination. We will be working towards a solution which is both effective and durable.
“I believe this is a significant step forward and we are already engaging with local stakeholders regarding the detail of these proposals.
“This is part of the consultative framework intended to get the views of those directly affected by any future works.
“Sepa is keen to see these works delivered without delay and will work with the MoD to ensure momentum continues.”
Former prime minister Gordon Brown, the local MP, wants the MoD to announce at a meeting in Dalgety Bay next week that it will fund the £1 million clean-up.
“Having asked in the Commons in December the minister to rule out a do-nothing position, we have now made some progress,” he said. “Last year, when the MoD was officially named as the polluter, having dumped radiated ash from hundreds of broken-up wartime fighter planes on Dalgety Bay, they refused to accept the blame.
“I am determined that the three-year-long blight on the area should be removed as soon as possible and I now hope that the Ministry of Defence will commit the funds needed.”