Harper Continues Calls For Safety Action Over Unexploded Ordnance In Beaufort’s Dyke

South Scotland MSP, Emma Harper, has repeated her calls for a safety assessment of Beaufort’s Dyke due to the increasing amount of unexploded ammunition that continues to wash ashore on our local Dumfries and Galloway beaches and coastline.

Whilst speaking in a debate in the Scottish Parliament on the disruptive impact of high order detonation, which is essentially controlled explosions to deal with unexploded ordnance, Ms Harper repeated her calls for a safety assessment of Beaufort’s Dyke. She has been calling for improved safety since 2019.

The Dyke is a natural deep water trench located in the North channel of the Irish Sea between Ireland and Portpatrick in South West Scotland. The deep water trench was used to dump unexploded weapons in the sea after the second world war and more recently other contaminated – including radioactive – waste.

According to the MOD, over 50,000 tons of explosives are disposed of in Beaufort’s Dyke. In July 1945 alone, 14,500 tonnes of 5-inch – 130-millimetre – artillery rockets filled with phosgene were dumped. Additionally, according to the Public Records office, approximately two tonnes of concrete-encased metal drums filled with radioactive laboratory waste and luminous paint were dumped in the dyke during the 1950’s.

Ms Harper asked the Cabinet Secretary to press the UK Government to use proven alternatives to high order detonation, so as to reduce disruption to the marine environment and to protect marine mammals which can become disoriented by large underwater explosions. 

 Emma Harper MSP commented;

 “Increasing development in the marine environment is leading to the discovery of a greater number of unexploded munitions. Although exact figures aren’t available, the Coastguard and Royal Navy Bomb Disposal Unit have reported that the number of unexploded ordnance washing ashore is increasing. While the exact reasons for this remains unclear, there is expert opinion which suggests that it may be due to a combination of sea levels rising, increased offshore projects – such as the construction of offshore wind points – and increased marine traffic.
It is widely understood that at the end of the second world war – instead of taking the surplus unexploded munitions to Beaufort’s Dyke – which was an approved offloading site – often the weapons were dumped closer to shore to save money and time. It is therefore little wonder that we are now discovering more unexploded ordnance washing ashore.
“Previously, I wrote to the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Defence to ask that a full safety assessment be carried out of Beaufort’s Dyke, so people across South West Scotland can be reassured. It’s also important that this assessment be carried out, should any potential offshore developments come to the region. I have had no response from the UK Ministers and I have asked the Scottish Government to intervene. 
“Additionally, in the debate I highlighted that clearance of unexploded ordnance is commonly undertaken by high order detonation – controlled explosion – which leads to loud blasts and disturbs protected marine mammals and the marine environment, not to mention the potential safety implications to people coming across unexploded ordnance at our coastal areas. I therefore support calls for Marine Scotland to use various new forms of less disruptive means of removing unexposed ordnance.” 

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