Britain’s largest landowner has come under fire for failing to protect residents and ramblers from toxic ponds left over from lead mining on his extensive estate.
The Duke of Buccleuch, 62, owns the land near Wanlockhead in Dumfries and Galloway, where hazardous levels of lead and zinc have been detected in the Queensberry tailing ponds. An official report in 2014 recommended the Duke put up fencing to prevent the public from being harmed by the toxic ponds,which lie beside the Southern Upland Way, a coast-to-coast walking route.
Pollution of Wanloch Water from old lead workings has been investigated by the UK government’s Coal Authority for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa).
The report found high levels of toxic heavy metals such as lead, zinc and cadmium in the river, in breach of environmental quality standards. Much of the pollution came from the Queensberry tailing ponds, which contain wastes from centuries of metal mining. In its recommendations the report said: “Because of the high percentages of lead and zinc detected in the Queensberry tailings pond sediment, it is recommended the area be fenced off to prevent livestock and deter members of the public from entering the site.”
The report also urged further studies into the dangers of contaminated dust being blown into the air in dry weather and inhaled by walkers or residents. The impact on wildlife also needed to be investigated, it said. But so far no action has been taken.
Sepa confirmed that the Duke of Buccleuch was the landowner, and suggested it would be his responsibility to erect a fence, along with the local authority.
Dumfries and Galloway Council said it was investigating the matter.
A spokesman for Buccleuch Estates said dealing with the legacy from old mine workings involved Sepa, local authorities, health bodies and local landowners.
He said: “A multi-agency public health risk assessment said the risk to human health was low.
“However, Buccleuch takes its environmental responsibilities seriously and is pursuing the pond sediment fencing issue through dialogue with Dumfries and Galloway Council.”