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Loch Lomond Radium Works

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Loch Lomond Radium Works was located near the area of the boatyards in Balloch, Dumbarton, and the former factory site is now occupied by a boatyard near Red Fox Drive.

Believed to have opened around 1911, although some account place this as late as 1915, the works closed in 1928, and were the premises of John Stewart MacArthur (1856 - 1920), a Glasgow born chemist and metallurgist, and pioneer of gold and radium refinement methods. MacArthur's early career began as a chemist with Charles Tennant, also noted for methods of dying and bleaching he created for use with textiles. MacArthur was later to develop and patent the MacArthur-Forrest process (for extracting gold and silver from ore using cyanide) while working in the basement of a Glasgow medical clinic in 1887, the work being funded by two Scottish physicians, brothers Robert and William Forrest. He then spent a number of years working on the development of gold mining in South Africa. The process remains in use today, but remains controversial due to its use of cyanide, and the dangers it poses to workers and the environment. He returned from South Africa to continue his work on the refinement of radium, and went on to establish MacArthur's Loch Lomond Radium Works, which manufactured radium compounds.

We have been told that a huge concrete block was placed over the ground where radium from from the factory was dumped, and when the owner (Donald Black) of the boatyard proposed building a café to serve the boatyard, his plans were blocked, and he was told never to touch the block.

Radioactive Contamination, Dumbarton

In 1991, in the House of Commons, Mr Flynn asked then Secretary of State for Scotland Lord James Douglas-Hamilton what information he possessed on the levels of radioactive contamination at the Riverside boatyard, and what steps were taken regarding decontamination.

His reply was that the Scottish Office Environment Department had information about the site, including records of radiological surveys and that these had been made available to the local council and Her Majesty's industrial pollution inspectorate, which would offer advice to the council. He noted that action had been taken in 1963 to remove the hazard, and that the land owner would be responsible for any further action, dependent on the use to be made of it, and any conditions imposed by the planning authority for the area.

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