Three arrests, two cordoned off areas and some 150 mustard gas canisters found – just some of the statistics which tell the story of the complicated mustard gas investigation which has taken place in and around the Woodhall Spa area for the last couple of weeks.
The investigation began when two bottle diggers discovered canisters in Roughton Woods on Sunday, October 1.
Mustard gas was a lethal chemical first used in World War One and was banned by the Geneva Protocol of 1925.
The bottle diggers were treated in hospital for minor burns and respiratory problems after disturbing the gas.
Roughton Woods was the first area to be cordoned off. It was here the first mustard gas canisters were found and two people were taken to hospital with minor burns after disturbing the gas.
Both are now out of hospital.
The area remains to be cordoned off while it is decontaminated after a total of 140 canisters were found in the woods.
The canisters found at Roughton Moor are believed to be from an RAF station and military base which was on the site from 1942 until it closed in the late 1960s.
Superintendent Phil Vickers from Lincolnshire Police told Lincolnshire Reporter: “We have just seen Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue leave the scene at Roughton Woods and we have the bomb disposal team also leaving today.
“Now, the site itself is being secured and the area is being fenced off.
“There is still more work to be done and work is due to start next week on recovering soil which was contaminated by the canisters.
“Currently, the area is not safe and we are asking people to sty away for the time being until the contaminated soil is recovered.”
A further 10 canisters were found at the bottom of Stixwould Lake, north of Woodhall Spa.
These were found by divers using sonar equipment. See the sonar images of the canisters:
The Royal Navy and Army bomb disposal teams have also been working alongside police and other emergency services using drones to locate the canisters.
All canisters have been found and the water has been tested. Results show the water was not contaminated in the incident.
Superintendent Vickers added: “In terms of Stixwould Lake, we anticipated that we would find a single crate of 10 canisters.
“These were all recovered using sonar technology and we can confirm all canisters have been tested and none leaked.
“The water in the lake has not been contaminated so it is completely clear and safe.”
Longdales Road, Lincoln
Police arrested two people, a 38-year-old man and a woman from Lincoln on suspicion of being in possession of a noxious substance, in connection with the canisters in Woodhall Spa.
Following this, officers raided a property on Longdales Road in Lincoln.
However, a force spokesperson said that no noxious substances were found at the home on Longdales Road in the city after neighbours reported the presence of masked officers and forensics through the evening of Wednesday, October 4.
Both Lincoln people have since been released on bail.
Superintendent Vickers said: “Nothing that would cause concern was found in Lincoln.
“There was no evidence of any canisters ever being there.
“I am limited at to what I can say but the investigation is ongoing and we also searched a house in Woodhall Spa, which was also clear.
“The investigation is still active but we are not at this stage looking for anyone else.”
East Lindsey District Council is now leading in the decontamination of Roughton Woods.
A spokesperson said: “The community is asked to avoid the woodland area concerned and it remains cordoned off at this time.
“There is still a need for the area where the ammunition was found to be fully decontaminated, although the items found on site have been safely removed from site.
“The site is safe if left undisturbed but an area will be fenced off (with a security presence) for a period of time whilst site surveys and decontamination takes place.
“Don’t be concerned by this. We will only be fencing a relatively small area.”
‘Public safety top priority’
In summary, Superintendent Vickers said: “I have a number of messages for the public.
“The first is that their safety has always been our top priority, and we are committed to keeping the public informed and that’s what we ensure we do.
“We have appreciated the support of the residents and we don’t lose sight of the fact that we work for the local community and their support has been key in our investigations.”