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‘Unprecedented infestation’ of rats at Dounreay site

By Gordon Calder

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Pest control have been brought in to deal with rats at Dounreay.
Pest control have been brought in to deal with rats at Dounreay.

Dounreay has had to bring in a pest control company to deal with an "unprecedented infestation of rats over the past few months," according to a safety rep at the site.

Workers, too, have expressed their concerns about the situation with one saying hundreds were reportedly seen "scurrying away" when pampas grass-like plants were removed from around the buildings where they were nesting.

There have been reports of the rats being seen in vehicles, a kitchen area and near bins, while concerns have been raised about health implications.

Full-time safety rep Denny Macdonald said: "I can confirm the site has experienced an unprecedented infestation of rats over the past few months. Obviously, not withstanding the risk of disease and contamination of food and water that this can bring, it has also caused stress to staff across the site.

"In response, Dounreay has hired the services of an external pest control company who are working to address the issue."

Kim Thain, the vice-chair of the Trade Union Co-ordinating Committee at the site and the GMB deputy lead and safety rep, also confirmed the site has been experiencing "an ongoing situation with rats over the past few months".

"We have been assured by management that an external pest control company has been contracted and are currently working to address the issue," she said.

Dounreay acknowledged there has been a rise in “reported vermin-related events” but stressed that it has taken steps to tackle the problem and will "continue to take appropriate action as necessary".

When the pampas grass-like plants were removed from around D1300 and the Occupational Health Department (OHD) buildings, the rats seem to have migrated to other parts of the site such as D1313 and the Fuel Cycle area, it has been claimed.

One worker said: "It is enough of a problem to warrant health concerns and to bring pest control onto the site to deal with the rats."

The person added: "This is the first time that rats have been seen entering a 'sinking ship'“ – a reference to the low morale among staff and the possibility of strike action being taken at the site over a pay claim.

Another pointed out that a van had been quarantined "until further notice" due to rat faeces and urine, while on one occasion a rat was seen running across a top floor corridor in the D1313 building.

"It appears the rat was seen exiting the upstairs kitchen before running along the corridor and exiting via a hole at skirting board level. I'm disgusted at the thought of a rat in a kitchen that I use along with most office-based staff in D1313. There is work surfaces, sandwich grills and other appliances that could easily be contaminated with rat urine which can cause the fatal Weil's disease," said the person in an Unusual Occurrence Report (UNOR) seen by the John O'Groat Journal.

It was claimed that no remedial action had been taken at the time or any warnings given to people "to be careful when eating or drinking within the facility".

"It amazes me that we have quarantined a van with rat faeces under the bonnet but have ignored a rat in a kitchen or workplace," added the worker.

Another report claimed that during a weekly collection of refuse in DFR (Dounreay Fast Reactor) the operator witnessed a rodent coming from a wheelie bin. The incident was reported to a manager who was informed there was a bung missing from the bottom of the bin.

A dead rat was found in another part of the site after a strange smell was reported by a supervisor. A pest controller was contacted, the rodent was found and disposed of "through the appropriate waste route".

Dounreay acknowledged there has been a rise in "reported vermin-related events" but stressed that steps have been taken to deal with the issue.

A spokeswoman at the site said: "Over the winter, Dounreay has seen an increase in reported vermin-related events. We have taken appropriate health and safety actions to manage the risk. This has resulted in a successful reduction of vermin-related activity.

“We continue to monitor the situation very closely and take appropriate action as necessary."

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