WORK has started on digging up the beach at Dalgety Bay in the next stage of the programme to tackle the town's radioactive contamination.

Test pits and bore-holes are to be dug by a contractor for the Ministry of Defence to help identify where radioactivity is buried and the size of the problem.

The work will take approximately three weeks and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) will also be on site.

Dr Paul Dale, radioactive substances specialist at SEPA, said, "There's about 90 trial pits that will take over the entire site.

"It's to determine the physical extent of any contamination that's there and that will inform the development of remediation options next year to bring this issue to closure.

"The first phase was a desktop review of where contamination may or may not be present, looking at aerial photography of changes in the coastline and how things have been built out and eroded back so that's informed where we're going to put the trial pits.

"There are other streams of work such as work to determine the actual hazard posed and these will come together by May next year, together with determination of who might be responsible for putting the contamination where it is.

"People have been monitoring and removing particles here for 20 years. The plan now is to find out what there is now and what might come out in future so you can remediate it and we can take away these fences and these signs so that people can go about their business without thinking about radioactivity."

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the Dalgety Bay Community Council have launched an appeal to anyone who may have knowledge about how the contamination occurred.

Colin McPhail (above right), community council chair, has asked for anyone who has knowledge on incineration, dumping of material or other works at the foreshore in the 1950s and '60s to contact him.

It is understood that radioactive particles found on the beach at Dalgety Bay are coming from caches within made ground, which helped form the coastline during and following the closure of Donibristle Airfield.

Information is being sought from anyone who worked at the airfield at that time, before construction work started on Dalgety Bay in the mid-60s.

Mr Brown, MP for the area, said, "I am pleased that the MoD contractor will now commence 'Phase 2' of the investigation this month and this will include bore-holes and trial holes on the contaminated land.

"But I would like a promise that remediation work that takes us beyond investigations will be agreed to start next spring.

"The delays now arise from a Ministry of Defence idea that someone else is to blame for the contamination.

"But while they look for scapegoats they should be absolutely committed that whatever else happens, the remedial work will go ahead and not be delayed.

"I applaud the continued determination of Colin McPhail and the community council to press for speedier resolution of the issues."

SEPA has been carrying out work to investigate the activity and solubility of particles recovered, changes in the coastline to identify areas that may have been made from moved earth and the make-up of the area of ground in front of the sailing club.