Polmadie Burn: 'Erin Brockovich' River Clyde toxic disaster 'poses no risk to public'

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RESIDENTS living near a Glasgow burn polluted with cancer-causing chemicals have been reassured that there is no danger to the public.

Speaking at a meeting of the Oatlands Steering Group, representatives from the Oatlands Community Council said they had received confirmation from Glasgow City Council that the levels of poisonous hexavalent chromium had been diluted in Polmadie Burn.

The poison was made famous by the 2000 Hollywood film about Californian anti-pollution campaigner Erin Brockovich, played by actress Julia Roberts.

READ MORE: Clyde 'Erin Brockovich' toxic disaster clean-up would require tens of millions

The water, which has been found to contain high concentrations of Chromium IV, was closed off the public last month after related pollution turned the water green.

While the issue of ongoing contamination of the local stream was not on the agenda, the issue was brought up by members of the community council in their quarterly report.

It was reported work had been carried out to redirect the burn towards the River Clyde in order to reduce the concentration of Chromium IV in the water.

A spokesperson for the community council added: “We have received information from Glasgow City Council that the burn has been diverted and has now been sealed.”

“Glasgow City Council have advised that there is no risk to public health unless the contaminated water is directly ingested or comes into contact with skin.

“Signs have been erected in the area to advise on public safety.”

READ MORE: Poisonous ‘time bomb’ leaves Glasgow families fearing they’ll be sold down the river

A report on Richmond Park, one site affected by the problem, was given by a Glasgow City Council but the issue of contamination in Polmadie Burn was not addressed.

However, Glasgow City Council have confirmed that work had been carried out and that it was anticipated that it would improve the situation.

A council spokesman added: “It was anticipated that rainfall would sufficiently dilute the burn and that the blocking off and diversion of the West Burn culvert, as undertaken by Clyde Gateway, would positively impact on the contamination in Polmadie Burn.

“We will continue to support Clyde Gateway’s on-going efforts to address the issues at this site, and across the wider area, in whatever way we can.”

The substance found in the area, Chromium-VI, has been linked to cancer and is a result of long-term pollution left behind by J&J White Chemical factory in Shawfield, which shut in 1967.

Used as a catalyst in the chemical manufacturing industry, the substance is believed to be carcinogenic and has been shown to cause lung cancer, as well as inducing kidney and liver problems and aggravating asthma and skin irritation.

Residents and public bodies have long known about the contamination of the stream, which has previously infected by run off from the Shawfield site.

Whilst the factory was in use, employees were reportedly known as ‘White’s whistlers due to the damage caused to their nasal passages.

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Efforts to reduce the risk to the public have accelerated in recent years, with environmental agency SEPA first citing chromium in its board papers in April 2012. Studies on the chemical in Polmadie burn were also published in both 2009 and 2017.

Water was diverted away from the burn in January this year towards the River Clyde to dilute the concentration of the dangerous chemical, with decontamination of the area having been in place for years

Further work, which is expected to cost around £5 million, will begin in May but environmental bosses have indicated that the final bill to decontaminate the site could be closer to £60 million.