Pulham radium pollution fears: Test results revealed

Pulham airfield

Pulham airfield - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2010

Radioactive materials discovered at a former Norfolk airfield site do not pose 'an unacceptable risk to public health' according to a council.

South Norfolk Council's environmental health team has sought to reassure the public they are not in danger after radioactive Radium-226 was found at the former Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS) base at Upper Vaunces Farm in Pulham.

The reassurance follows an investigation involving consultants Golder Associates, the Environment Agency, Public Health England and the Food Standards Agency.

In August, the council revealed traces of the radioactive material had been found in luminous paint on seven artefacts found at the site, which used to be home to airships during the first world war.

However, a statement from the council said the material was only found in small quantities in a comparatively small area of privately owned land, adding that in addition, the majority of artefacts detected were removed at the time and sent for laboratory examination.

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Therefore, the council decided not to designate the Pulham site as Radioactive Contaminated Land, as defined in the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Councillor Keith Kiddie, cabinet member for environment and regulation, said: 'Our priority with this investigation was to collect all the evidence and expert advice necessary to reach a fully-informed and accurate conclusion.

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'We understand that neighbours have been concerned and they will no doubt be reassured to know that the site has been thoroughly investigated and they need not be worried about risk from radiation.

'Our decisions have been based on current best practices and in consultation with national experts in the field, all of which has concluded this site does not present an unacceptable risk to human health.'

The Radium-226 was used in dials and signs on board military aircraft with RNAS at the airfield, which used to be home to the so-called Pulham Pigs airships as well as 3,000 service personnel and 2,000 civilians.

The site, which opened in 1916, 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.

Letters have been sent to nearby residents detailing the results of the investigation and inviting them to a drop-in session with council officers and the Environment Agency to talk through any concerns they may have.

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