Scotland’s EPA confirms remediation of Dalgety Bay to begin

  14 May 2021
SEPA has been clear in requirements that remediation “will be done once, and it will be done right – providing a permanent and positive resolution”.
  • A permit has been issued by SEPA so remediation of Dalgety Bay’s environmental legacy can begin on Monday 17 May.
  • The restoration will provide a permanent and positive resolution for the community.
  • Specialist SEPA Officers will be present on site to ensure all conditions are fully complied with.
  • Remediation will involve excavating areas of the foreshore, replacing rock armour around the headland and installing a new slipway for the Dalgety Bay Sailing Club – stopping erosion and preventing public access to any remaining contamination.
  • Once the work is complete the demarcated area and warning signs will be removed allowing full access to the foreshore area.

Remediation of Dalgety Bay’s environmental legacy can begin on Monday 17 May with work to remove radioactive contamination from the foreshore. The restoration will provide a permanent and positive resolution for the community.

SEPA has today (Friday 14 May) issued the final permit required for work to commence (an EASR 18 permit) by Ministry of Defence contractors. The application was received on 15 March 2021 with the final details received today. Specialist SEPA officers have carefully assessed the monitoring technique being used to remediate the site and responsibly manage the waste, and will be present on site every day to ensure permit conditions are fully complied with and that public health is protected during the operation.

Radioactive material was first detected on Dalgety Bay foreshore in 1990. SEPA established that the contamination originated from the residue of radium-coated instrument panels of military aircraft that were burned and buried at the end of World War II. Investigation works carried out by SEPA identified several caches of particles – with the largest contained within the headland.

Monday is expected to see MoD contractor heavy excavating and moving equipment arriving on site. The remediation work will include replacing rock armour around the headland and installing a new slipway for the Dalgety Bay Sailing Club. This will ensure that higher activity sources are no longer being eroded out and washed onto the beach and will prevent public access to the remaining contamination.

During the remediation work areas of the foreshore will be excavated and processed to remove asbestos and radiological contamination. Public access along the foreshore has been restricted since 2011. Fencing will screen the working areas and transit routes from the excavation areas. The works will be ongoing until October 2021 and recommence in April 2022. The break is to ensure protection for wintering birds.

Once remediation has been completed and verified by SEPA it is expected that all the current restrictions will be lifted and the public will be able to enjoy unrestricted access for the first time since 2011.

Dr Paul Dale, Radioactive Substances Manager at SEPA, said:

“Communities around Dalgety Bay have, for many years, lived with the environmental legacy of second world war radium contamination on the shore. SEPA has been clear in our requirements that remediation will be done once, and it will be done right – providing a permanent and positive resolution.

“Whilst restricting beach access, monitoring and retrieving particles stipulated by SEPA has ensured the public has been protected, this work will deal with the situation once and for all. The journey towards successful remediation without the requirement to designate the foreshore as Radioactive Contaminated Land has only been possible because SEPA, Fife Council and the MoD have continued to work constructively together with a range of partner organisations, scientific experts and, most importantly, the local community.  This is indeed an important milestone for Dalgety Bay and for Scotland’s stunning environment.”

Following successful implementation of the works SEPA will adopt a programme of monitoring of the area to demonstrate the continuing effectiveness of the remediation and give the necessary public reassurances in perpetuity.

ENDS

 

Notes to editor

  • EASR 18 -  Environmental Authorisations (Scotland) Regulations 2018 Standard conditions for radioactive substances activities.

  • Radium is a naturally occurring radioactive element with a half-life of 1,600 years and was historically used by the MoD in luminescent paints.

  • Radium 226 consists of:

    • alpha particles, which can be stopped by a piece of paper;
    • beta which can be stopped by thin metal;
    • gamma radiation which requires thick concrete to stop.

  • The main risks to the public would be caused if someone swallowed a particle and it becomes stuck in the gut, they breathed it in, or if it is in was contact with the skin for a long period of time (i.e. stuck under a fingernail).

  • Thousands of particles have been removed from Dalgety Bay over the years through a programme of monitoring and retrieval, ranging in size from tiny specks to pieces as big as half-bricks.

  • Some sources have been high activity and would be a significant hazard if people came into contact with them. The larger sources could give an individual a (committed effective) radiation dose of more than 100 milli Sieverts (mSv). For context the average annual background radiation dose for an individual in the UK is 2.6 mSv, so a high activity Dalgety Bay source could be equivalent to nearly 40 years of background exposure, or about 5,000 chest x-rays.

  • SEPA is satisfied that advisory signage and access restrictions currently in place, along with the monthly monitoring the MoD contractor has carried out, including during the lockdown period, has ensure that the risk to the public has been minimised.

  • The Radioactive Contaminated Land (Scotland) Regulations 2007 and their amendments came into force in 2007 and the statutory guidance was issued in 2008. Under these regulations, SEPA has the responsibility for the investigation, identification, characterisation and regulation of remediation of radioactive contaminated land.