Dalgety Bay


Dalgety Bay is located on the north side of the Forth Estuary in Fife.

Radioactive material was first detected on a part of the foreshore at Dalgety Bay in 1990. Monitoring has been undertaken by both SEPA and the Ministry of Defence and periodically radioactive material has been removed. It is thought that the contamination originates from the residue of radium coated instrument panels from military aircraft incinerated and land-filled in the area at end of World War II.

The radium used by the MoD was primarily in luminescent paints. Radium based luminescent paint was typically made by mixing a radium salt, zinc sulphide and a carrier material (typically varnish or lacquer).

Recent history

Many surveys have been undertaken on the beach to determine the potential numbers of items present and possible implications for public health. SEPA has undertaken a number of recent monitoring and assessment exercises at Dalgety Bay and these can be viewed on the Dalgety Bay reports page on our website, this includes the 2013 Risk Assessment pdf link 

Below are data for the sources SEPA recovered from Dalgety Bay between September 2011 and December 2014:

SEPA only periodically undertakes monitoring and removal of sources on the beach, it is the MOD's programme which monitors and recovers sources each month from the whole of the affected area which are in addition to these sources.

The sampling and analysis of shellfish from Dalgety Bay started in February 2012 and was concluded in February 2013.  Cockles, winkles and mussels were collected from a number of locations within the bay initially on a monthly basis followed by a combination of monthly and quarterly monitoring (subject to sample availability).  The samples were analysed for Ra-226.  Since the conclusion of the sampling and analysis of the shellfish, monitoring of the shellfish beds has been undertaken and no particles have been detected within the beds to date.

Current situation

The total number of radioactive sources (particles) that have now been recovered since the beginning of our investigation in September 2011 is significantly greater than 1,000. Of these sources, to date, five had a radioactivity content of greater than 1 MBq of Radium-226 (1 Mega Becquerel = 1,000,000 Bq). Four of these sources were located in the area which is currently cordoned off and the fifth on an area in front of the headland which is only accessible at low tide.

Currently, the MoD is undertaking a programme of investigation to determine the extent and magnitude of the contamination at Dalgety Bay. This investigation forms part of our inspection of the land under the Radioactive Contaminated Land (Scotland) Regulations 2007 and will lead to the development of remediation options. The potential range of options are detailed in a report from DIO which is available here.  From those options, we will determine the most appropriate remediation plan. In the meantime, the MoD continues a programme of monthly monitoring and retrieval in the affected area at Dalgety Bay. We have oversight of this programme and undertaken periodic checks to ensure its effectiveness. The detection and removal of radioactive particles close to the surface of the land reduces the possibility of a member of the public coming into contact with these particles. However, we urge the public to continue to follow the advice on signs at the site – don’t remove anything from the beach and wash your hands upon leaving the area.

August 2014 Update

Ongoing monitoring and recovery is still being undertaken and will be ongoing at the foreshore at Dalgety Bay which is lowering the risks to the public.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has committed to an investigation to determine the optimal long term management arrangements at Dalgety Bay.  To inform the work that the MoD is undertaking and to assist SEPA in assessing any options coming forward SEPA sought the advice from Public Health England (PHE) on the acceptable levels of contamination on the beach at which the current mitigation actions (including: monitoring; demarcation; and signage) would no longer be required.  PHE provided that advice pdf link to SEPA on 10 April 2014 which we have shared with the MoD.

This advice has been taken into account within the Management Strategy document pdf link published by the MoD on 10th July identifying the proposed remedial works to be undertaken at the site.  Calum MacDonald, Executive Director of SEPA said:

"The proposed works outlined by MoD provide a long term solution to the radium contamination of Dalgety Bay which if successful will allow the public to use the entire area again in an unrestricted manner.

"We welcome the proposals and will continue to work with MoD, Fife Council and other partners as detailed plans for the works are developed and implemented.

"If these works are completed successfully SEPA considers that this will allow the closure of this long running issue".

Discussions are ongoing with the involved parties to progress the detail of the proposed option.


Further information from NHS Fife external link

Food Standards Agency in Scotland external link

Further information

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