Many gurnites might have heard what the local authority refers to as "anecdotal evidence" that aircraft parts were dumped in the former Kingsteps Quarry after the end of World War 2. Now it seems Highland Council are taking the folklore tales seriously. Here's what they have to say in a press release:
"The Highland Council is carrying out ground investigations and radiological surveys, at the former Kingsteps Quarry in Nairn. Investigations will initially take place on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 April. The works are being carried out to ensure the site can be used safely by the public as an amenity area in the long term.
Surveys will be undertaken as a precautionary measure due to anecdotal evidence of possible buried World War 2 military aircraft at the site and to assess any impact from historical fly-tipping in the area. If present, aircraft parts disposed of may have contained very small amounts of radioactive contamination in the form of luminised paint which was used on dials on wartime planes.
Consultants have been commissioned by the Council to undertake a radiological survey of the site. This will be done using monitoring equipment that is walked over the ground surface. A general evaluation of other possible pollution sources in the quarry will also be undertaken.
The 4.2 hectare site at Kingsteps Quarry is owned by the Council and was acquired in 2001 (at no cost) from the neighbouring Lochloy Housing developer.
Council staff in the Development & Infrastructure Service and Community Services have been liaising with SEPA, and local Ward Members.
The site was formerly a sand and gravel quarry and then used as an unregulated local dump. There are informal paths on the site used by locals for dog walking and countryside amenity.
Radiological survey staff will be on site for 2 days. During the survey period, public access will be maintained at all times.
William Gilfillan, Highland Council’s Director of Community Services said: “The surveys are a precautionary measure. There have been word-of mouth accounts of planes being deposited in the quarry but no documentation has been found to support this. The surveys will also check that any potential contamination from historical activities in the area does not pose an unacceptable risk to human health. Residents have requested that more could be done to encourage access in this area and carrying out these surveys will contribute to an understanding of the site that will inform future decision-making.”
"The survey results will be analysed - and if required - appropriate actions will be taken to remediate the area for continued public access. If required, the Council will apply to the Scottish Government for Vacant and Derelict Land Funding to improve the site.”
Mr Gilfillan added: “The Council has prepared an information bulletin on the survey for anyone wanting to find out more and this information is available on the council’ website. Anyone requiring further information should phone the Council’s Service Centre on 01349 886606.”
Kingsteps Quarry – Information bulletin
1) What are the surveys looking for?
The radiological survey will detect particles of radioactive material (specifically Ra-226) up to a depth of 10cm, and was designed with advice from the SEPA Radioactive Substances Unit. Ra-226 is associated with aircraft dials, and there is anecdotal suggestion that aircraft may have been buried in the former Quarry following WWII.
The general site survey is designed to assess the materials and depth of soil currently onsite. This will inform the Council on areas where tipping may have occurred and provide useful information towards a remediation design if necessary.
2) Why is the Council doing this survey now and who pays?
The Scottish Government has provided the Local Authority with Vacant & Derelict Land funding, and the inclusion of greenspace improvement criteria has allowed the Council to program this survey.
3) When will the results of the survey be available?
The radiological survey will take a few weeks to complete. We should be able to provide you with an update by the end of May 2015.
Ground Investigation/general site survey could take 3 – 6 months when further updates will be made available.
4) Who do I contact if I have any queries regarding the survey or information about historical military dumping in the area?
Please contact Council’s Service Council’s Service Centre on 01349 886606 who will direct your query to the most appropriate person.
5) What risk is there to my family?
The Highland Council does not know of any risk to the quarry users. This inspection is precautionary and based on the desk based historical review inclusive of the former quarry area only.
6) There is housing built adjacent to the quarry and further development underway, could these areas be contaminated?
All housing in the area at present is located outside the survey area, which is the former quarry only. Any new housing given Planning Consent from 2002 will have been required to demonstrate it was suitable for use.
7) What happens if you find contamination in the Quarry?
The results of the soil and groundwater analysis will be used to assess whether there are any unacceptable risks to health and / or the wider environment. Once this process is completed, if necessary, a remediation strategy will be developed and executed in line with the funding available."