Military Personnel To Help Nerve Agent Clean-Up In Salisbury

The Army and Royal Air Force will support the clean-up operation in Salisbury, following the nerve agent attack in March...

Cover Image: Falcon Squadron, Royal Tank Regiment on the scene following nerve agent attack (Picture: MOD)  

The Army and Royal Air Force will support the clean-up operation in Salisbury, following the nerve agent attack in March.

Around 190 specialist military personnel from the Army and RAF will be supporting the operation to ensure the sites safe for public use. 

The work is expected to take a number of months and is currently being overseen by DEFRA, based on expert advice from Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), Public Health England, Department for Health and Social Care, Home Office, and Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) also said that a "very small amount" of the Novichok nerve agent was used in the suspected attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, with the substance delivered in a "liquid form".

Nine sites within the city still require some level of specialist cleaning, including The Maltings, the cemetery, Zizzi and the Ashley Wood compound.

Sergei Skripal Russia Spy Salisbury Police
Traces of the nerve agent were found at Zizzi's restaurant

But the level of contamination at the sites is still unclear.

"We either know there is contamination there (in the nine sites) or we think there is a probability we could find contamination there," DEFRA said.

DEFRA’s Chief Scientific Adviser Ian Boyd, who is chair of the decontamination science assurance group overseeing the work, said:

"Our approach is based on the best scientific evidence and advice to ensure decontamination is carried out in a thorough and careful way." 

"Our number one priority is making these sites safe for the public, so they can be returned to use for the people of Salisbury."

"Thanks to detailed information gathered during the police’s investigation, and our scientific understanding of how the agent works and is spread, we have been able to categorise the likely level of contamination at each site and are drawing up tailored plans."

"Meticulous work is required and we expect it will be a number of months before all sites are fully reopened."

Work has already begun on a small cordoned area of London Road Cemetery, which has now been reopened to the public - following extensive investigations and testing to establish that it was not contaminated. 

Library Pictures

Public Health England have reaffirmed that the risk to the general public is low.

Residents and visitors will see more activity in the city as the work gets underway.

In the coming days, current cordons around the most public sites will be replaced with secure fencing, backed by police patrols and security guards.

Baroness Jane Scott, the Leader of Wiltshire Council, said:

"We are pleased that work will be starting to decontaminate the sites affected by the shocking attack in our city."

"Working together with local and national agencies we are doing all we can to help Salisbury return to normal."

"Our main concern is to ensure that Salisbury is safe for residents, businesses and visitors and that the city can focus on the future, its recovery and that it will go from strength to strength."