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Monday, 3 September, 2001, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
Pit locals 'very frightened'
Protestors at the Inkerman pit
Protestors were arrested at previous demonstrations
People living near a foot-and-mouth burial pit in north-east England have condemned the decision to re-open it.

The Inkerman pit near Tow Law in County Durham had been closed after protests organised by people living in the town, but lorries full of freshly slaughtered animals have started to arrive again at the site.

Peter Lister, one of the protestors who lives nearby, told BBC News Online: "We are back to square one after eight weeks, and a lot of people are very frightened.

There are 300,000 decomposing carcasses... they expand as gas is produced.

Dr David Able, biologist

"We have long-term concerns about the safety of the site.

"Nobody has ever buried anything in this country on this scale before, and there are all sorts of gases being released from these pits."

Tow Law town is about 800 metres from the site, which was formally opened on 2 May.

Some protesters claim that groundwater is being polluted by the decomposing carcasses.

Soldier stands in front of lorry being disinfected
Soldiers are helping to co-ordinate the latest cull

Dr David Able, a reader in applied hydrobiology at Sunderland University told BBC News Online: "I have measured the biological oxygen demand of the water, and all of the samples were higher than they should have been.

"Two of them were four times higher than the limit for a river which is receiving treated sewage effluent.

"There are 300,000 decomposing carcasses... the animals are piled in and covered, and then they expand as gas is produced.

"When they contract again you get a black liquor... caused by decomposition.

"There is an identifiable risk that the lining of pits could rupture, and this liquor is very strong... it would kill all plants and fish... you do not mess around with it, and you would not want people anywhere near it.

"I cannot say the site leaked the organic matter into the river but I can say the site is right next to it," he added.

Mr Lister said: "What we are angry about is the fact Margaret Beckett has described this site as a national asset - it is not, it is a national disgrace."

The protestors are now pinning their hopes on the European Commission.

They hope it can be shown that the UK Government has breached environmental directives at the Inkerman pit.

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