THE £10.5 million scheme to remove radioactive pollution from Dalgety Bay's beach has been delayed again and will not now finish until next year.

Decontamination work was due to be completed by the end of September but the Ministry of Defence admitted it will go into a third year and the new target date is June 2023.

Councillors on the South and West Fife area committee were told that warning signs will remain in place at the foreshore until the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) is satisfied that the clean-up has been successful.

Although the contract was awarded to Balfour Beatty in early 2020, decontamination work didn't get under way until May 2021 and did not progress "as quickly as anticipated", which meant less work was done.

Due to birds coming to the shore for winter, the project can only proceed between April and September and with lessons learned from last year, the pace picked up in 2022.

However, Stephen Ritchie, from the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, part of the MoD, told councillors: "The delays occurring in the first working window are such that the work will not be completed by the end of the second working window and a third session – in 2023 – will be required.

"Based on the current scheduling, this is likely to take until June for the decontamination and associated construction to be completed.

"Whilst this is not ideal, the nature of the work requires the time to complete the work to the satisfaction of SEPA.

"The MoD commitment to address the public health situation as agreed in the management strategy remains and will do until the work is complete."

Remediation includes excavating areas of the foreshore, replacing rock armour around the headland and installing a new slipway for Dalgety Bay Sailing Club – stopping erosion and preventing public access to any remaining contamination.

He added: "The MoD have undertaken to carry on monitoring the entire area after completion of the works to make sure the decontamination exercise has been successful."

Councillors were told previously that the foreshore was the worst area of radioactive contamination in the country.

SEPA said other sites had been investigated and while some radiation was found, it was nothing like "the magnitude of the problem that was at Dalgety Bay".

At last week's committee meeting, the environment watchdog's Nina Patton said: "SEPA and Fife Council plan to hold a public information event to outline the next steps once remediation has been completed.

"This is likely to be near Christmas."

Radioactive material was first detected on the beach at Dalgety Bay in 1990 and came from Second World War planes which had aircraft dials coated in a luminous paint containing radium-226 to help pilots see in the dark.

The dangers of radiation poisoning weren’t known at the time and, after the war, the planes were broken up and burned at Donibristle airbase, with the resultant ash and clinker dumped along the foreshore.

More than 3,000 radioactive particles – some giving very high readings – have been found at the beach, in nearby gardens and next to Dalgety Bay Sailing Club, and restrictions were put in place in 2011, with parts of the beach fenced off and fishing banned.

The MoD accepted responsibility finally in 2014 but plans for a clean-up were delayed frequently.