UPDATE: Unmoved barrels of explosive acid ‘soon to be destroyed’

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Concerns have been raised over barrels of acid used to make explosives remaining at Bellbrook Lane Industrial Estate in Uckfield.

A bomb disposal squad attended the site after 300kg of picric acid along with chloroform, formaldehyde, methanol are understood to have been discovered by site owner Kevin Benton.

Since, there has been confusion about who is responsible for having the materials removed.

He said: “The picric acid has now been analysed and it is in crystal form and therefore classified as a class 1 contact explosive. It is surrounded by 25 tonnes of highly flammable toxic xylene, industrial strength alcohol and formaldahyde.

“This is enough, my consultant advises, to flatten most of this area of Uckfield should detonation occur.”

He said it could detonate due to changes of temperature such as application of heat, cold, or even a small shock if they are moved. Mr Benton said the bomb squad advised him they could not move it without a 1.8km exclusion zone being established.

However, on Wednesday (November 29) an environment consultant visited the site and said water had been added to the acid and it was soon to be destroyed.

Andy Smith told the BBC: “The picric acid which we were concerned about is rather too dry for us to be happy with, so we’re now adding water to it to moisten it up to bring it up to a suitable percentage level of moisture.”

Responding to this, a spokesperson from Wealden District Council said: “We welcome the action taken by Mr Benton to make sure the chemicals on his premises are safe. We will support any efforts to have them safely removed.”

A spokesperson for ESFRS said: “East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has been made aware of fresh claims regarding chemicals found at a business property on an industrial estate in Uckfield.

“The Service has ensured that firefighters are aware of the potential risks should there be a need to attend the site in an emergency.

“As a matter of routine, when the Service is alerted to the storage of chemicals, it will review the emergency procedures in place and alert the necessary authorities if needed.

“If a member of the public believe there is a chemical leak on any site, they should dial 999 and report the incident.”

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said: “The Environment Agency regulates the management of waste, including its keeping and disposal. We also advise businesses on preventing water pollution.

“We understand the materials Acquascience stored are products. We have no evidence they have been discarded or are likely to cause water pollution.

“None of these sites is covered by an environmental permit covering waste operations, and there is currently no evidence that waste is being stored there.

“We are in contact with other agencies regarding this matter, including Horsham District Council and Wealden District Council. Enquiries about the storage of materials at these sites should be referred to the relevant local council.”