Multi agency operation launched following discovery of suspicious object (Pill) (4th May 2010)

Plans for a multi agency operation to deal with a suspicious object in North Somerset have been announced.

A special press briefing was held at the police headquarters at Portishead to discuss the discovery of the object in a riverbank at Pil.

The object was discovered by the Environment Agency during preparatory works for the Pill Tidal Defence Scheme.

Project manager with the Environment Agency, Richard Cox told the press briefing: "Survey work revealed an object about 1.40m long and 0.4m in diameter, buried in the riverside mud at a depth of two metres.

"It is possible that the object could turn out to be a harmless piece of metal that has been washed inland from the Bristol Channel, or it could be a unexploded bomb from the second world war," said Mr Cox.

The docks at nearby Portbury were known to have been a regular target for German bombers during the second world war.

Multi agency partners including the police, other emergency services, Environment Agency, North Somerset Council, Bristol City Council, the Explosives Ordnance Disposal and other agencies have joined forces to draw up detailed plans to deal with the mystery object.

This includes plans to excavate the area where the object is located – near to homes in Pil.

Work on excavating the object will start on Friday May 7. This will be undertaken by the Environment Agency who are working with a specialist agency – BACTEC – who specialise in the managing unexploded ordnance.

If they discover during the excavation work over the weekend of May 8-9 that the object is an unexploded bomb, they will alert the police, who will launch Operation Hangar.
This will include the involvement of the army's specialist Explosives Ordnance Disposal team, who will be tasked with completing the excavation and then be responsible for making the object safe by detonation.

If the object does turn out to be a second world war bomb an immediate cordon of 100m will be put in place, extending to 400m as work continues on the device.
This may mean that people living near to the device will be asked to leave their homes – purely as a precaution.

Yesterday following the press briefing at the police headquarters to announce the discovery of the mystery metallic object Bristol City Council and North Somerset Council – supported by police officers and police community support officers – began informing residents living in the affected area.

Information issued provided guidance and advice on what people need to do if the object does turn out to be an unexploded bomb.

Mr Ian Wilson of North Somerset Council's Emergency Management Team said: "Initially we will be contacting residents living in 76 houses, issuing them with leaflets informing of what action they need to take and what will be happening in the area.

More residents will need to be contacted if the EOD decide to move the object to carry out a successful detonation.

Bristol City Council have also started contacting residents on the other side of the River Avon, providing them with advice on what action they need to take.

A public information centre will be set up in the area and the police will also be locating its community contact vehicle to provide support and reassurance to local residents.

Superintendent Ian Wylie of Avon and Somerset Police, who is the silver commander for Operation Hangar and chaired the press briefing said: "Our aim is to provide a co-ordinated multi agency response to ensure a professional, safe and efficient operation. The safety of people living and working in the area is of paramount importance.

"Our aim is to minimise the risk of harm to members of the public; minimise the risk of damage to property or the environment, by using well rehearsed plans.

"Throughout the course of the operation we will ensure the public are fully informed and reassured," said Supt Wylie.

Regular updates on the progress of the operation after excavation starts on May 7 will be carried on the police and council websites and the information will also be circulated to the media.

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