Northern Ireland

MoD to spend £3m decontaminating Derry's Fort George site

Japanese knotweed.
Image caption Japanese knotweed has caused a problem at Fort George

The Ministry of Defence is spending more than three million pounds decontaminating the former Fort George army base in Londonderry.

It has been in continuous use since World War II and is polluted with heavy oils and diesels, as well as small amounts of heavy metals.

Japanese knotweed, which can undermine foundations, is also present.

Work on cleaning up the 14 acre site is expected to start later in the summer and finish in 2012.

Lawrence McCullough, the development manager at Fort George, said it was normal for a site which had been used as a shipyard and military base for many years to have some pollution.

"Contamination on the site consists mainly of heavy oils and diesels and small bits of very dangerous chemicals like arsenic," he said.

"It's a site that has to have work done to clean it up to make it suitable for future use. As part of the planning requirements we have to do it."

A plant that needs to be disposed of along with the hazardous waste is also present on the site.

"Japanese knotweed can be dealt with and will be dealt with," Mr McCullough said.

"It will be sifted and burnt.

"It's a painstaking operation, but if it's left untreated it can return and undermine foundations of the buildings and cause considerable damage to buildings in the future."

He said that the MoD funding for cleaning up the site was a result of a commitment the ministry had made in 2001 when it gave up Fort George.