THE clean-up of a Fife beach has been halted putting families at risk of potentially lethal radiation.
For years radioactive waste has been found at the beach in Dalgety Bay which is thought to come from the luminous dials of wrecked warplanes.
But now the clean-up has been halted and no agreement has been reached with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) to resume, despite warnings the problem is set to get worse.
Phil Dale, SEPA’s radioactive substances specialist, said: “If you don’t keep removing these particles the potential for people to be exposed increases.”
Scientists are currently assessing waste and if the risks are found to be significant and Defence Estates fail to put in place a proper recovery programmes SEPA may take enforcement action.
Mr Dale added: “The law places a duty on SEPA to investigate areas believed to have radioactive activity.
“So far we haven’t had a response from Defence Estates. We will pursue them if nothing is forthcoming.”
Dalgety Bay is home to one of Scotland’s largest sailing clubs and is a growing commuter town.
It was previously the site of Donibristle Airfield, where hundreds of aircraft were bulldozed after World War 2.
Parts of the planes – including the luminous dials – were incinerated and the waste tipped out along the coast.
A monitoring team from Rosyth Naval Base discovered the area was contaminated in 1990.
Since then 23 drums of radioactive waste have been removed.
Two years ago SEPA said particles found on the beach could give a child a potentially lethal dose of radiation and suggested partially covering the “hot spot” in concrete.
In response Defence Estates agreed to monitor and clean the area over an 18 month period but that arrangement has now ended.
A new report commissioned by Defence Estates and published by environmental specialists Entec sates: “Following removal of (radioactive particles) recontamination of the beach continued.
Consequently it could be argued that there will be progressive increase in the number of particles in the beach over time.”
Experts admit the particles could kill if they found their way inside the body.
There is nothing to prevent families accessing the beach and only small signs warn of the risks.
Fisherman Colin Flint, 36, said: “I was comfortable knowing the area was being monitored and cleared so it’s a concern.
“The MoD should be forced to take responsibility. My biggest fear is that it will take tragedy for them to wake up to the problem.”
Councillor Alice McGarry, who represents Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay, said that more has to be done: “People can’t smell, see or taste this stuff and unless the beach and the area around is cordoned off they’ll be at risk.
“The fact that the MoD has stopped monitoring and removing these particles is unforgivable.
“Enough is enough. They have an obligation to clean up the beach.
“The locals want the issue addressed. Some may be reluctant to play it up because of concerns over house prices, but most agree it’s now time for SEPA to up the ante.
“There really is no excuse.”
A Defence Estates spokesman said it would be working with SEPA to make a re-assessment of the risks.
He said: “We are awaiting correspondence from SEPA on extension of the monitoring and removal of radioactive contaminants at Dalgety Bay.
“We will meet our responsibilities but are mindful that unnecessary remediation should not be undertaken.”
REPORT: Amanda MacMillan