There are growing fears an abandoned factory used for disposing of bovines could be harbouring mad cow disease which could be a threat to human health. Thruxted Mill was one of four sites used by the UK to dispose of carcasses containing the pathogen, also known as CJD. Abandoned for 16 years, developers now want to turn the land into housing.
However, following the announcement, scientists have warned this would be a bad idea. They claim the now derelict seven-acre Kent site could pose a threat to the health and safety of the UK population.
The University of Kent’s Professor Alan Colchester told the Mirror that human activity must never be encouraged near the mill and surrounding area. He believes the buildings remain a threat as the molecules that cause mad cow disease are extraordinarily difficult to destroy and can incubate for several years.
He said: “The site is a biohazard. It’s always been known that the infected agents for Mad Cow Disease are incredibly resistant to normal decay and destruction and there will undoubtedly be some long-term contamination in the soil.
“The point is that there are various ways you could come into contact with it.”
He also warned of the worst-case scenario if developers were allowed to build on the site.
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He said: “The worst-case scenario is that you could transmit the illness to animals or humans from environmental materials that have themselves been infected in the past.
“And with CJD, we’re talking about a seriously long incubation period – from a few months to several years. Infected remains were left lying around and contaminated material is probably still lying in large quantities in the soil.
“Nothing should be done to encourage human activity around Thruxted Mill or the surrounding woodlands. If you have places in an urban environment that has contamination, then there might be a case that we should tarmac it over completely.”
Despite the risks, some bloggers have made the trip to the site to investigate.
A user on the urban exploring forum “28DaysLater.co.uk” said they visited the site in May last year.
Posting as RXQueen, they said: “I’ve smelled/smelt some bad things in my times exploring but nothing, absolutely nothing, will beat this place. It was a mix of blood, rust, decay, oil, pigeon s**t and death.”
When the site was used for disposing of cows, their carcasses were reportedly dumped in the yard, leaving a foul smell hanging over the local area.
Local residents were also faced with the site of pieces of dead cows littering the surrounding roads as they spilt from lorries.
This hasn’t stopped developers from wanting to develop on the land. In 2017, some hoped to decontaminate the site and build 20 homes to the tune of £1.75 million.
When that pitch was made the developers said soil studies showed no evidence of species such as anthrax or salmonella, although traces of asbestos, metals, petroleum, oils, and fats were found.
Although Ashford Borough Council gave the scheme the green light, admitting the site had “the most dreadful legacy”, it was cancelled after a legal battle launched by a disgruntled resident.
A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs said: “To prevent risks of spreading disease from residues in the soil, groundwater or air pollution, the burial or burning of fallen stock, including all farmed animals, in the open has been banned since 2003.
“Before that, guidance on the safe and legal disposal of fallen stock was made readily available. The risk of biohazards is addressed through local authority planning processes if historic burial sites are redeveloped.”
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