Membership update on the Radium contamination issue

Many of the club’s members will have noticed the recent activity around the club and wondered what was going on, and who was digging holes in the headland.

This recent activity was instigated by SEPA as the next stage in the investigation into the ongoing radium contamination on our foreshore.

A brief history of the issue will help to explain the reasons behind the decision to do this recent work.

As many will know, a number of surveys of the foreshore and grounds have taken place over the years. The first being a routine monitoring of the area carried out by the dockyard while the nuclear submarine facility was active. Their survey was looking for potential contamination from submarines, and this is when radium material was first detected. Nuclear submarines don’t leak this kind of material, so the research started to identify where it could have come from.

Various organisations have conducted surveys of the area, and even though each survey removes the contamination (for analysis) subsequent surveys have always located fresh contamination to remove.

A forum of the professional organisations and relevant interested parties was formed to manage the issue to a conclusion. This group is known as the Dalgety Bay Forum, and the sailing club has been active in it since its inception.

The cause of the constant repopulation of particles, and source, has proved extremely difficult to identify. The movement of material on the foreshore is very fluid, (please excuse the unintentional pun!) making identification of sources very difficult.

It has long been known that “clinker” on the beach from the burning of debris and waste from the old Donibristle airfield was a source of the contamination. The original source being the luminous paint used in aircraft instrumentation, and, with Donibristle being a repair airfield.. well.. they had a quite a lot of it!

A previous survey, carried out by contractors for the MOD identified a “seam” of clinker in the sediment of the beach, which as duly removed. At the time, it was felt that this seam may well have been the culprit, but subsequent surveys showed this not to be the case.

During this time, the Dalgety Bay forum felt it appropriate to issue guidance on health and safety in the form of the signage that can be seen around the club.

Coming back to the present then, the recent works have been carried out in an effort to better understand where the source for repopulation could be located.

SEPA undertook an intensive study of the headland in front of the clubhouse, from the harbour in the west to the slipways in the east.

Their first task was to “map” the area using ground penetrating radar, giving a very accurate picture of the formation of the land. This was followed by a radiological survey using some new techniques developed by SEPA.

Bore holes were made and radiological instruments were lowered in to them to test for contamination at far greater depths than surface instruments can manage.

All of the holes have been back filled and the grounds are back to normal.

SEPA now have good 3D model of the headland area, and have detected “areas on interest”.

This work, coupled the knowledge built up, may well lead to new signage with stronger wording to provide interim protection to the club membership and general public.

SEPA now believe that they have sufficient evidence to force matters to a conclusion.

This information has been shared with the club, and will shortly be discussed in depth in the next Forum meeting.

In the interim, the sailing club will begin to investigate potential solutions to remediate the contamination issue.

Our solutions will be presented to the forum to inform discussions and shape the outcome of any remediation programme. The club will remain fully involved in the forum and will continue to work for an outcome that has the best long-term outcome for the club.

Further updates will be made as information becomes available.

In the meantime, please follow the hygiene advice on the signage around the club, and don’t pick up or remove objects from the beach areas.

Donald Adrian & David Burnett


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