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Lemley leaves. The drama continues

Jack Lemley, who was chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), claims that in the 15 months since London won the Games, no remediation work has begun on the 757-acre site in east London. “Not a spoonful of dirt has been turned all summer,” he told construction industry leaders shortly before he resigned. “We have not yet touched the site and this is a huge problem. What if there is unexploded ordnance from the war? We have to identify what is in the ground to get the programme moving.”

According to public records and bomb disposal experts, about 60 live high-explosive bombs weighing at least 500kg are buried in and around the Olympics site which is close to the docks, a prime Luftwaffe target during the blitz. Diesel, pockets of explosive methane and Japanese knotweed — Britain’s most invasive plant, which can destabilise buildings — also pollute the site.

Sources close to Lemley confirmed that he was “very concerned” about the contamination. “It has been left untackled for too long and the longer it is left, the more serious the problem could be if contamination is unearthed,” a spokeswoman for him said. “It could cause delays to the programme and that could put upward pressure on costs.”

“We have found a mix of contaminants including heavy metals, oils, methane and other hydrocarbons,” said Gareth Blacker, director of development at the London Development Agency (LDA) which owns the site. “There is Japanese knotweed on parts of the site and we are anticipating we will come across unexploded bombs, although these are less difficult to deal with than knotweed.”

Nuclear contamination experts will visit the site of the planned velodrome next week to deal with drums of waste containing thorium, a mildly radioactive metal that can be used as a nuclear fuel. According to official papers, it was dumped in the 1950s. The LDA estimates that the clean-up will cost £200m before foundations are laid but says the project is on schedule to complete one year before the Games are due to open.

From: Nazi bombs threaten London Games, Robert Booth, The Sunday Times, 5 11 06

More at: Contamination

See also: Why Lemley left

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