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Toxic legacy of US Navy in Holy Loch (19 Mar 97)

A recent report from the firm, Environmental Resources Management , for the Ministry of Defence shows that the site of the former US nuclear submarine base in Scotland is the most toxic stretch of coastal water in Britain. Levels of heavy metals, PCBs and other toxic chemicals are far higher than in other estuaries in Britain and are frequently at levels which are in breach of safety limits. The survey was carried out in December 1996 and a copy of the results leaked to the New Scientist magazine.

The concentrations of metals ( milligrams per kilogram of sediment) are shown below in comparison with normal amounts found in UK estuaries.

MetalHoly LochUK estuaries
nickel32658
zinc82612821
chromium926207
copper75652398
tin322161
selenium3.101.15
mercury4.703.01
cadmium2.702.17

Also one sample had a concentration of a carcinogen, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, which was six times the safe limit applied in the Netherlands. The amount found was 228 milligrams per kilogram. Concentration of phthalate was at 245 micrograms per litre of water, which is 49 times the Dutch safety limit. Phthalate mimics the hormone oestrogen. The Netherlands levels are used because this is one part of the world where work has been done to establish marine standards for these pollutants.

The report refers to an MoD survey carried out in 1995 which found PCBs at a level of 864 micrograms per kilogram of sediment, which is an extremely high concentration.

The survey was not looking for radiation but an earlier report was quoted which found Cobalt-60 and Manganese-54 which had come from submarine reactors.

Debris from US submarine activity covers a quarter of the seabed of the Loch and in may places is six metres high. The Ministry of Defence intends to start clearing the loch using a crane and electomagnet. However there remains concern that this could make the matter worse, by dispersing the toxic materials. The cost of this work will be paid for by the British taxpayer.

Scottish CND argues that more detailed survey work has to be carried out before any debris is moved, and that the bill should be paid by the US Government.

Scottish CND      News