The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) Scotland Forum is shocked to hear from Fife Council that the Ministry of Defence and their contractor Balfour Beatty, tasked with the clean-up and remediation of the Dalgety Bay radium-contaminated site, have still not sought a licence from the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, despite many previous assertions that they were actively doing so.
The Dalgety Bay coastal site contains radioactive particles that derive from radium dials in aeroplanes originating from the Second World War which were dumped decades ago at a site close to the Sailing Club.
The South and West Fife Area Committee met last week with officials from the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) to receive an update on progress towards getting a licence for the remediation of the site. To the surprise of councillors, the permit application the MOD previously claimed to have made in November is yet to be submitted.
In November 2020, the MOD issued a press statement saying the application to get permission to do the work had been made, even though they had previously promised the work should have started in April 2020. The application process is understood to have a 4-month turnaround, but it was reported at the Area Committee meeting by the MOD that it had not been approved. .
At the meeting though, SEPA confirmed quite explicitly that no application has yet been made. SEPA also confirmed that when an application is made, it would still be subject to a turnaround period of up to 4 months. While the MOD’s contractor Balfour Beatty can set up a compound and prepare for works to start, they cannot begin any remediation until the permit, yet to be applied for, has been approved.
It has now been confirmed today in a MOD media release that the works have been formally delayed again until July 2021. (1) For NFLA this is still optimistic seeing an application for a licence has still not gone into SEPA and July is less than four months away.
This sorry saga is now already seven years old since the MOD first accepted liability for cleaning up the site. At the time they said the work would be completed by 2018. In recent years, MOD have also publicised confirmed start dates for April 2019, April 2020, July 2020, April 2021 and now July 2021. This new statement still departs from SEPA’s statement that no application has been received and their July 2021 start date again assumes SEPA will approve the application quicker than the stated 4 months. While NFLA know SEPA will seek to approve it as quickly as is practical, the licence required includes highly technical and sensitive details over the handling and the disposal route of radioactive waste dumped by the MOD. If SEPA still have not received all the information required from the MOD it remains overly optimistic to suggest this work will begin in July.
The residents of Dalgety Bay and Fife deserve far better from the MOD. A dangerous public health issue has been known about now for the best part of a decade and it still is nowhere near being resolved. It is astounding that the MOD are constantly prevaricating with this work. The wider concern for us is if these delays are putting the local population at further risk, while the costs and complexity of remediating the area could only increase with this lack of activity.
NFLA call on the MOD and Balfour Beatty to explain why it is taking so long to put an application into SEPA for a licence to remediate the Dalgety Bay contaminated site. NFLA also call on an updated timetable to resolve this matter and clean the site. Above all, NFLA call for this work to be done urgently and the MOD needs to get a grip on this matter now.
NFLA Scotland Vice Convener, Councillor Audrey Doig said:
“NFLA Scotland believes it is disgraceful for the MOD to continue to delay essential remediation work to clean up the radioactive particles on the Dalgety Bay shoreline. MOD behaviour over the past few years has included evasiveness, a lack of transparency, real confusion and many missed targets. The local community is being poorly served by yet another delay. It is time now for the MOD and Balfour Beatty to fully engage with SEPA and Fife Council and start work this year before it becomes too late to do so, and another year is lost. The real incompetence of the MOD on the matter has been shocking. It is now high time for them to get a grip of this important environmental remediation project.”
Fife’s NFLA member and local Dalgety Bay Councillor David Barratt added:
“I am absolutely astounded by both the lack of progress by the MOD and their contractor, but also by the lack of transparency from the MOD who appeared willing to lead the Area Committee to believe things were generally on tack. I am now concerned that insufficient progress is likely to be made this year. We are less than a month to when remediation work should have started but the 4-month clock to receive the permit hasn’t even started. It’s yet more incompetence and almost certainly, yet more delay.”
Ends. For more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)7771 930196.
Notes to Editors:
(1) Dunfermline Press, 8th March 2021