DANGEROUS levels of a toxic chemical linked to cancer have been detected in a Glasgow waterway.

Polmadie burn, which runs through Richmond Park in the south of the city, was sealed off after tests revealed that the water is contaminated with high concentrations of hexavalent chromium.

Local residents had raised the alarm after noticing the water had become "luminous green" in late January.

Decontamination has been ongoing in the area for years to rid it of potentially hazardous industrial chromium left behind in the ground by the former J&J White's Chemical Works, which closed in 1967.

Exposure to hexavalent chromium is known increase the risk of lung cancer, asthma, kidney and liver problems and irritates skin and eyes.

Temporary 'Heras' metal fencing has now been erected around the burn following warnings from environmental health officers that the site posed a potential risk to public health.

It is understood that Avant Homes, who are currently constructing a major housing development in Richmond, plan to install a permanent fence.

A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council said: “Following a site visit last week and confirmation about the temporary high concentration of hexavalent chromium in the Polmadie Burn, Heras fencing has been put in place to restrict public access and there is an agreed proposal to temporarily increase the flow of the burn, in a controlled way, to dilute the level of chromium.”

A spokesman for Oatlands Community Council, which represents residents in the area, said: “The community council are aware of the ongoing issues with the Polmadie Burn, all relevant authorities have been informed, including Sepa and Glasgow City Council.

"Our intention is to work closely with these parties to ensure there is no risk to public health."

The community council was due to holding its regular meeting with residents and local councillors last night.

The J&J White's Chemical Works operated in Rutherglen from 1820 until 1967. Waste products in the form of Chromite Ore Processing Residue were known to have been used to back fill the former clay pits in the area, resulting in a legacy of contamination.

Investigations established that the Polmadie Burn was becoming contaminated with chromium flowing into it from the nearby West Burn Culvert Diversion, which is routed underground and passes through the site of some of these former backfilled clay pits.

To deal with the problem, a decision was taken to divert the culverted West Burn and this work was carried out on January 21. The diversion has redirected a significant proportion of the contaminated water which used to flow into the Polmadie Burn away, carrying it straight into the River Clyde instead where it is diluted enough not to pose a public health risk.

However, Sepa believe that the current contamination of the Polmadie Burn has occurred because the time of the West Burn diversion coincided with a dry period, meaning the residual water which flowed into the Polmadie Burn had higher than normal concentrations of chromium in it.

Groundwater from the abandoned culvert will also continue to leak into the Polmadie Burn until the culvert is fully sealed up, which is expected to take another two weeks to complete.

A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council added: "[Sepa] expect that the majority of the chromium that used to get into the Polmadie Burn has now stopped, but until the abandoned West Burn culvert is fully sealed, some contamination from the groundwater may continue to get there, but in much smaller volumes than before.

"The reduced dilution in the Polmadie Burn is making the contamination look more concentrated, so for now it looks worse (greener). Once the abandoned culvert is fully sealed, and is no longer acting as a pathway, Sepa expect to see the colour gradually disappear and that heavy rainfall would speed this up considerably."

A spokesman for SEPA said: “Clyde Gateway, in partnership Glasgow City Council and South Lanarkshire Council, is undertaking extensive work to reduce the level of chromium, which is the result of chromium ore processing residue from a former chemical works previously located in the Shawfield area. 

"Work to stop contaminated ground water from entering the Polmadie Burn is due to be completed in the next couple of weeks and is expected to result in a considerable reduction in the level of chromium present in the burn. 

"The work forms part of the wider remediation of historical land contamination in the Shawfield area by Clyde Gateway and partners.

  “SEPA is providing guidance, advice and monitoring, working with local authorities and Clyde Gateway regarding environmental improvements and potential environmental impacts associated with the remediation of this land.”