An area of Brean beach was cordoned off by fire crews on Saturday afternoon (January 12th) after a potentially hazardous chemical drum was washed up on the tide line.
Specialist fire appliances from Burnham-On-Sea, Bridgwater and Taunton, along with a team of Burnham-On-Sea Coastguards, were called to Brean beach after a beach walker raised the alarm.
A fire spokesman told Burnham-On-Sea.com at the scene: “A sealed plastic chemical drum that was believed to be about three quarters full of an unknown substance was washed up on the high tide.”
“This was treated as a potentially hazardous material and the drum was placed into a secure environmental ‘over-drum’ before being safely taken away for safe storage and disposal.”
A 50-metre area of the beach was taped off by fire crews around the chemical drum, and beach walkers and motorists were kept away as a safety precaution.
At one point, five fire appliances were on scene. A specialist vehicle also had to be brought from North Devon with environmental equipment to safely remove the chemical drum.
The beach was fully re-opened at 4pm once the drum had been removed. The Environment Agency were also consulted about safety.
A fire service spokesman said: “Fire Control received a call from a member of the public reporting that a 200 litre container had washed up on the beach containing an unknown substance.”
“Two appliances from Burnham-On-Sea, one from Bridgwater and an Environmental Protection Unit with a supporting pump from Taunton, were mobilised to the incident.”
“On arrival, the incident commander liaised with the coastguard who were also on scene, they confirmed the container displayed no visible marks, was three quarters full, had no viable leaks but was showing signs of being in the water for some time.”
“As the incident commander couldn’t confirm the substance we had to plan for a dangerous substance. A cordon was put into place – weather, tide and environment were all considered. The plan involved placing the drum into a protective drum allowing the council to collect and dispose of.”
“A special drum was requested and brought from South Molton Fire station, and once in attendance crews used four BA and full PPE to place the drum into the protective drum and hand over to the coastguard to await the collection by the council.”
A Coastguard spokesman added: “Around midday, we received reports of a yellow barrel that had washed in. Although it looked harmless there were no identifying markings or stickers to explain the contents.”
“The person reporting it stated that the unit was sealed and didn’t appear to be leaking and that there was still some content left inside, and sent over some photos. We liaised with our Coastguard Operations Centre (CGOC) in Milford Haven who asked us to investigate further.”
“Upon arrival, we carefully examined the barrel without disturbing it and as there was no indication of what it could be the CGOC decided to request the Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service to ensure it was rendered safe for removal.”
“Once they arrived, they asked for a cordon to be set up, then it was a case of awaiting the arrival of a specialist ‘over barrel’ which is placed over the top of the washed-up barrel and sealed so it could be safely removed by a contractor that looks after the beach.”
“This had to be done by a Fire Rescue Service team in Breathing Apparatus in case the barrel was compromised and the contents leaked out. Once this was completed the contractor was able to remove the item to a safe location for disposal by Somerset County Council.”