23rd October saw an announcement by the Ministry of Defence that the site of
a former chemical weapons establishment located on the North Cornish Coast,
will receive a clean-up. Surfers Against Sewage have welcomed the news but still
have concerns about how exactly the clean up will happen and how safe the operation
The site, which closed down in 1980 has been the subject of concern for local
residents and water users as tonnes of toxic chemicals are rumoured to be buried
beneath the site. Records of what happened to plant machinery and left over
chemicals when the site was decommissioned are scarce, but the Ministry of Defence
recently confirmed that remnants from the plant are buried in the mineshafts
beneath the old site.
Following an assessment of the site the MoD have also disclosed that upon closure
of Nancekuke a mixture of chemicals used to make the nerve gas were discharged
to sea – no sea monitoring took place following this discharge.
SAS were recently sent photos of ceramic discharge pipes allegedly located in
cliffs beneath the site, these pipes are still open and the surfers are demanding
confirmation that there is nothing hazardous being released to sea through them.
A spokesperson for SAS said today;
" Ever since the site closed down, rumours about what is buried beneath
the old factory have been rife. Recently the Ministry of Defence confirmed some
of the rumours as fact. Not suprisingly we are concerned which of the other
plentiful rumours are fact not fiction. We know that the nerve gas produced
at the site was designed to kill with one drop. We also know that the chemicals
used to make the nerve gas will hang around in the environment for years. We
have confirmation that some chemicals were discharged to sea, we have confirmation
that plant machinery was buried beneath the site but we have very little idea
of what went where and in what amounts".
" Whilst we are obviously delighted that the site will be cleaned up
we are hesitant in our celebration. It seems that despite extensive assessment
of the site there are still many questions left unanswered. Just what could
be uncovered when the clean up operation starts? We know that chemical surveys
of the ground have taken place at the site but we are not just dealing with
a regular landfill here. We are talking about huge mine shafts, some the size
of cathedrals, where god knows what could be lurking. We fail to see how assessment
of the soil reveals the truth of what lies beneath".
" It is too dangerous to disturb the site when we are not entirely
sure about what we are going to discover. On the other hand considering what
is rumoured to be buried beneath Nancekuke we can’t afford to hold back on the
clean up. We would suggest geophysical surveying starts immediately".
SAS will be sending the photographs of the ceramic pipes to the Ministry of
Defence and will also be asking how they plan to survey the extensive mine shafts
beneath the site.
For further details contact James Hendy or Vicky Garner on (01872) 553001