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Luminous paint found at Norfolk airfield during radioactivity survey

PUBLISHED: 16:55 14 August 2012


Traces of a radioactive material may have been found on a south Norfolk airfield, but residents have been reassured the discovery was made on private land away from public footpaths and food crops.

Environmental health officers and councillor Keith Kiddie, cabinet member for public protection at South Norfolk Council, visited Pulham airfield in June to investigate whether the former Royal Navy Air Service base had been contaminated with radioactive Radium-226.

The luminous paint was used in dials and signs on board military aircraft during the second world war and many of these aircraft were based at Pulham.

However, concerns were raised the material had become buried in the ground when the planes were scrapped at the end of their active service.

In a letter to nearby residents, Adrian Nicholas, environmental protection manager at South Norfolk Council, said the two day survey found seven artefacts which appeared to have the paint on them buried in ashy soil where luminous paint had been found.

He said the items had been sent to a laboratory for examination and a clear picture of what was present would only be known once the tests had been carried out.

“Nothing was found on or adjacent to any public right of way or where food crops are grown. All items recovered were from rough areas of grass not used for food production,” Mr Nicholas said.

The discovery provided some reassurance to nearby resident Sheila King, who said: “What we knew to be there has been proven to be there, so that is a step forward.”

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 airships based at the airfield during the early 20th century.

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