Go to STV News

Major clean-up begins on beach after asbestos discovery

Contractors began sweeping the sands at Prestwick for pieces of asbestos on Tuesday.

By STV News

Published 02 Aug 2016.

A major clean-up operation was launched on a Scottish beach after asbestos was found on the shore.

Prestwick beach in Ayrshire was closed last week after a member of the public contacted the local council when he found the harmful material in the sand.

Scientific analysis has since identified asbestos fibres on small pieces of material on the beach.

On Tuesday, contractors working for the council began a sweep of the beach to identify and remove the substance.

Mike Tomlinson, a community councillor for Prestwick North, said he found more asbestos during the search on Tuesday.

He had been out with his wife and granddaughter last Thursday when he found the asbestos.

He said: "We were looking for sticks and stones to make a fairy house. I picked up what I thought was a stone which was slightly wavy. It was fibrous and I recognised it as being asbestos.

"I picked up another piece of what I thought was slate, split it and saw it was fibrous also."

Mr Tomlinson, who knows what asbestos looks like from working in the building industry, then put the pieces in a bag and contacted South Ayrshire Council.

He said: "Environmental health told me to dispose of it. I emailed the council and explained what had happened, and they got the beach closed on Friday."

Mr Tomlinson does not believe the material, which can cause cancer, has been found on the beach before.

He thinks a rubbish tip along the coast could be responsible.

Mr Tomlinson said: "There's an ongoing problem of five years of building rubble appearing on Prestwick Beach.

"The community council has been pestering the council to clean up the beach. The building rubble is coming from a landfill tip at a place along the coast.

"The sea defences have been breached and building material including asbestos is washing across with the waves.

"I don't know if there has been asbestos found there before."

Mr Tomlinson added many members of the community were worried about what the beach closure could do to Prestwick's economy - especially during the summer.

He added: "We're worried. It's like Jaws. It was found during the holiday season. People aren't going to come.

"I think it will have an effect on our economy. People will go to Troon instead. They just won't come here again.

"I just want the council to get the beach cleaned up and we can all go on enjoying it."

South Ayrshire Council said the beach closure would remain in place until it knows the impact of the materials found.

It is also working closely with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, NHS Ayrshire and Arran and expert scientific advisers to deal with the problem and consider all possible implications.

Dr Elvira Garcia, a consultant in public health medicine for NHS Ayrshire and Arran, said: "Until we know more about the material on Prestwick Beach, and any potential impact on public health, the precautionary beach closure will minimise the likelihood of exposure."

Precautionary checks have been made on other Ayrshire beaches, at Ayr, Barassie, Newton and Troon, and all were given the all-clear.