Toxic chemicals found 'leaking' at military bases

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The Independent Online
FEARS about the levels of pollution in soil and ground water near military bases throughout Britain have been raised by an Army survey and the confidential results of inspections at RAF bases. Both revealed widespread contamination, writes Jason Bennetto.

The findings will add to pressure for the withdrawal of Crown immunity, which protects the Ministry of Defence from environmental legislation. The MoD can only be prosecuted under European Community law and by private action.

In a year-long survey of bases in the UK, the Falkland Islands and Germany, a Royal Engineers team discovered that many storage facilities for highly toxic solvents and petroleum products were dangerously outdated. Airfields are particularly contaminated, says the report. The team leader has warned camp commandants could be prosecuted if serious pollution occurs.

Results of previously unpublished details of inspections made by the Government's Property Service Agency at RAF bases in 1990 and obtained by Friends of the Earth, show cancer-causing chemicals - up to 10 times the World Health Organisation's safety limit - in the ground water at several bases.

Levels of trichloroethene, a solvent which can cause cancer, were above the WHO 'action level' of 30 parts per billion at RAF Honington, RAF Mildenhall RAF Woodbridge, all in Suffolk, and RAF Sculthorpe, Norfolk.