RESIDENTS fear proposed flood defence work could unearth long-buried animal carcasses likely to be still infected with anthrax.

The Environment Agency has submitted plans to widen Turker Beck, in the Bullamoor Road area of Northallerton, following repeated flooding in the area.

But the proposed work has prompted some residents to point out the alarming news that farm animals believed to have been infected with the deadly disease anthrax were buried roughly 80 years ago in a sink hole in the area.

They fear the construction work could potentially unearth the carcasses.

Anthrax spores can survive dormant for many decades. Animals can become infected with the disease by ingesting spores while grazing.

Northallerton Town Councillor Jack Dobson, who is objecting to the plans, said: “When these animals were buried 80 years ago, there were no regulations like there are now. There was a sink hole down there and the farmer said they just pitched them into the sink hole near the beck.”

He added: “These anthrax spores can survive 300 years. If you were to dig them up the spores can get in the air and contaminate people. If they’re going to dig up this area and take the overburden to Teesside or somewhere they could transport the spores with them.”

The flood defence plans submitted by the Environment Agency have been recommended for approval by Hambleton District Council at its planning meeting on Thursday, March 6.

It involves creating a flood storage area on land north and south of a culvert the beck flows through and alongside the watercourse to create a wider base.

A planning report by the district council states: “With regard to the potential for anthrax to be present, in the absence of anything other than anecdotal evidence for the burial of animals affected in the locality, it is appropriate to make the developer aware of the potential issue.”

The report recommends that if any evidence of animal burial is found during excavation work, the Environment Agency should “immediately seek appropriate advice as how to proceed.”

Coun Dobson, a retired civil engineer of 50 years, is objecting to the plans.

He says the town’s Victorian network of drains is to blame for flooding, as it cannot cope with sudden, large volumes of rainfall.

His sentiments were echoed by another resident of the area, Bernard Sargent, who wrote to Hambleton District Council stating: “Locally it is known that carcasses of beasts which died of anthrax were buried in the area of the proposed scheme."

He said flooding in Bullamoor Park happened when grids in front of a culvert were blocked by debris.