Dalgety By radiation: Fears over more delays before beach clean-up starts
Long-awaited efforts to remove highly radioactive materials from Dalgety Bay could be delayed yet again after it emerged that the private contractor paid to do the work was yet to secure the necessary permits - despite aiming to carry out the works from as early as next month.
Members of the South and West Fife area committee were told today (Wednesday) that a base of operations was being established on the site of Dalgety Bay Sailing Club by Balfour Beatty, which has been contracted by the Ministry of Defence to carry out the clean-up.
Under its £10.5 million agreement with the MoD, Balfour Beatty will remove the radioactive material from the beach and install a Chernobyl-style concrete barrier over the affected areas, preventing further radiation from emitting.
It had planned to start the works in Spring 2020, but was forced to push them back to summer by coronavirus.
They were then delayed into the spring of this year after it emerged that Balfour Beatty had not submitted its application for a permit to SEPA - which it is required to do before starting the clean-up.
The work cannot take place during the winter months amid concerns that the activity may disturb nesting birds.
And while Balfour Beatty intends to start at Dalgety Bay next month, SEPA says it is still waiting to hear from the contractor - contrary to MoD claims that the necessary permits have been applied for.
It can take as long as four months for SEPA to process permit applications, potentially putting the brakes on the clean-up going ahead again.
Dr Paul Dale, SEPA’S radioactive substances specialist, said he had not received Balfour Beatty's permit application, but pledged that the agency would do what it could to speed up the process.
"We're engaging with Balfour Beatty on a fortnightly basis to see where they are and help them to progress the necessary paperwork so we can determine their application as expediently as possible," he added.
Stephen Ritchie, project manager at the MoD's Defence Infrastructure Organisation division, told councillors the project was "moving forward...in general terms".
"In general terms the project is moving forward. Balfour Beatty has established a facility at Inverkeithing where it has set up a pre-cast concrete production facility," he said.
"You'll have seen very little happening on the ground, but over the next while, there will be boats disappearing, cabins arriving, fences going up and the general feel of Dalgety Bay Sailing Club will be one of a construction site.
"Things are moving forward as planned.”
Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP Neale Hanvey said he was "furious" that progress has stalled.
He said: “Here we are once again with promises being made by the MoD only for it to emerge that crucial steps haven’t been taken to finally begin the clean-up.
“After the same issue stopped work going ahead last summer, I demanded a meeting with Jeremy Quin MP, Minister for Defence Procurement. He assured me the relevant licences had been applied for to allow the work to go ahead in spring this year.
”The MoD would like us to believe that it is everyone’s fault but theirs.
“I will write again to the minister to make it absolutely clear that the people of Dalgety Bay have been sidelined for too long.”