Dominic Bareham, senior reporter
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Traces of a radioactive material have been confirmed at a Norfolk airfield after seven artefacts were sent away for examination by scientists.
A laboratory examination confirmed luminous paint on the items, found at Pulham airfield by South Norfolk Council’s environmental health team, was radioactive Radium-226, which was used in dials and signs on board military aircraft with the Royal Navy Air Service based at the airfield.
However, a further investigation is set to be carried out in the area where the luminous paint was found on privately-owned land with no public right of access.
The council’s environmental protection manager Adrian Nicholas has previously reassured nearby residents by letter the materials were found in areas of rough grass away from public footpaths and land used to grow food crops.
Councillor Keith Kiddie, the cabinet member for public protection, said in a statement the council was consulting with the Environment Agency and Health Protection Agency about the results of the lab tests.
He added limited further work would be needed on the part of the site where the materials were found.
“This further work will build upon the initial grid survey to make sure that the complete surface area has been surveyed. And we hope that will provide reassurance that there were no gaps in the original survey.
“We are working closely with the Environment Agency regarding the best way to progress the investigation and make sure residents and others get further updated information once the next steps have been confirmed,” Mr Kiddie added.
The airfield, at Upper Vaunces Farm, was opened in 1916 and was home to airships- known affectionately as the Pulham Pigs- during the first world war, as well as 3,000 service personnel and 2,000 civilians.
The Pulham site was being investigated because contaminants had been found at other former airfields in the UK, most notably Dalgety Bay in Scotland where radioactive objects were found at a landfill site for second world war aircraft.
As well as radioactive materials, the investigation was also looking at other possible contaminants, including caustic soda used in the production of hydrogen gas for the airships.