THE odour of a strong, tar-like dark sludge in a stream has led to major health concerns for some Scarborough residents.
Since work began around a month ago at the former NEGAS Depot and coking plant in Seamer Road, residents in Weaponness Valley Road have noticed the sludge in a nearby beck.
Some have been experiencing headaches and are now keeping their windows closed.
Diane Hooper, who has lived in the area all her life, said: “The smell is putrid. The water is full of an oily-looking sludge. I’m concerned about wildlife – it’s all going towards the sea. Plus there are a lot of people who walk dogs in the area.”
One neighbour said her dog had been sick repeatedly after coming back from a walk, and another in the area was also thought to be ill.
A number of residents are now very worried about the situation and have spoken to Ramshill ward councillor Nick Brown.
Cllr Brown explained that Scarborough Council’s environmental health team have been out taking water samples.
Checks have also been made at the duck pond under Valley Bridge, as the stream from Weaponness eventually comes out there.
Cllr Brown said: “What concerns me is that people have been complaining of headaches for three weeks now. Public health is my main worry.”
Leigh Hogan at the Environment Agency said: “We were alerted to a pollution incident on a beck at Weaponness Valley Road late on Monday. Our officers are currently at the scene, and we are working with Yorkshire Water to try and pinpoint the source of the pollution. We are also liaising with Scarborough Council’s environmental health team.
“We are taking water samples to find out what the substance is, and have placed absorbent booms in the water to try and stop the pollution from moving further downstream to some duck ponds.
“We’re currently waiting to see from our investigation what the environmental impact of this incident is on the beck and local wildlife.”
A spokeswoman from Yorkshire Water said that the problem was not related to any of their sewers, but confirmed they were helping the Environment Agency pinpoint the source of the pollution.
Scarborough Council’s head of environmental services, Andy Skelton, said: “We think it would be sensible for the public to keep children and pets away from the immediate area until the Environment Agency investigation has been concluded and the situation has been dealt with.
“We are also suggesting residents keep doors and windows closed until the clean-up operation has been completed to reduce the chances of smells entering their homes.
“There have been concerns raised about the malodour present in the area. This is attributable to the pollution and the Environment Agency has suggested this may be due to the agent used to add an odour to gas to highlight any leaks.
“This is a chemical commonly known as mercaptans and is used because of its pungent smell, even at very low concentrations.”
He added that the Valley Road duck pond has not been affected, but staff are keeping a close eye on the situation.
Work is being carried out at the old gas works behind Weaponness Valley Road car park, off Seamer Road.
It is the site where Scarborough Council is hoping to relocate the Dean Road depot to when the new Tesco is built.
Contractors are carrying out preparation work at the site on behalf of the current owners of the land, the Skipton Building Society, before the council acquires the site.
Resident Bob Hird, of Trinity Road, says he had concerns about the site as soon as he heard the council depot could move there.
He said: “I would be concerned about toxic waste - it needs proper environmental removal.”