Danger on the doorstep

RESIDENTS of 50 mobile homes in Eynesbury have been advised to take extra precautions after their site was found to be contaminated by a chemical that may cause cancer. But residents cannot understand what all the fuss is about. The site, off Howitts Lane

RESIDENTS of 50 mobile homes in Eynesbury have been advised to take extra precautions after their site was found to be contaminated by a chemical that may cause cancer.But residents cannot understand what all the fuss is about.The site, off Howitts Lane, was built on 17th-19th century clay pits that were found during a routine check to have been filled in with pulverised fuel ash from commercial furnaces during or after World War II.When test borings found concentrations of benzo(alpha)-pyrene at 10 times the national background level of one part per million, Huntingdonshire District Council warned residents to take particular care with personal hygiene and not to dig deep holes in the soil.High concentrations of carbon dioxide - a breakdown product of benzo(alpha)pyrene - were also found in areas where residents had put brick bases beneath their caravans.HDC's cabinet will be asked tomorrow (Thursday) to authorise appointing consultants to identify the full extent of contamination and recommend remedial action.Remedial work should be carried out in the summer following the consultants' report in April, said Sue Lammin, HDC's head of environmental services."No level of benzo(alpha)-pyrene has been identified as safe," she told The Hunts Post. "There's a theoretical risk if people spend a lifetime there. Even so, it is right that we should be cautious."We also want to act as quickly as we can because three of the residents want to sell their homes."Residents had been advised not to dig deep holes through the soil and not to allow children to make mud pies. They should also wash their hands after playing outside and before they eat.HDC's head of housing services, Steve Plant, added: "The amount found varies throughout the site and seems to be confined to layers of ash underground. In order to be affected people would need to have direct contact with it. The risks from benzo-(alpha)pyrene are judged over a lifetime - over 70 years - rather than any illness due to shot-term exposure."Residents at the park, many of whom are retired, have no plans to change their behaviour as a result of the scare.Retired scientist Jim Elsom, 68, said it was "a storm in a tea-cup."He continued: "Of course, the council is right to take it seriously to cover itself against litigation. It's good that they are being totally transparent and giving us all the papers. "But all the hoo-ha makes me a bit angry. There's no suggestion that our exposure is greater than someone smoking a cigarette."Across the street, 81-year-old Ralph Davies, who has lived at the site for 20 years, was equally dismissive."It's one of those things that happens on all old industrial sites. The panic seems to have come from on high. I've been growing tomatoes, runner beans, beetroot, parsnips and other vegetables all this time, and I'm still here. It's all a bit of a flap about nothing."Retired factory worker June Cox, 65, who has lived there since 1992, said: "The site has been here for 40 years, and all of a sudden it's come to light.

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