WORKMEN are removing a pipe into the Thames for radioactive waste from the garden of Hollywood star Helena Bonham Carter.
The four-mile-long underground pipe had been discharging treated water from the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell into the river since the 1940s until March this year.
For the past few weeks workmen have been removing the section through the garden of the £2.9m home of actress Helena Bonham Carter and partner Tim Burton, which backs on to the Thames in Sutton Courtenay.
The pipe runs through her garden for a length of around 100 metres.
Research Sites Restoration Ltd, which is carrying out the work on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, says it only expects to find “very low levels of radioactivity” in the scale and silt which have built up in the pipe.
It is using airborne radiation detectors to make sure the pipe does not release contamination.
Michael Jenkins, chairman of Sutton Courtenay parish council, said: “Some people are more concerned about the risks than others, that is certainly true.
“I do understand those people who are concerned, and there have been one or two occasions when the pipe has leaked but it was dealt with at the time.”
He added: “It has to be done and I am pleased they are going to do it properly.”
Fiona Barry, who lives in The Green, said: “I would rather the pipe wasn’t there and I am pleased they are removing it but I am concerned about the fact that I don’t really know much about how they are removing it and how long it will take.
“I would like to have been told a bit more about what’s going on.”
The treated water discharged from the pipe until earlier this year would have had diluted chemical and radioactive components in it but was deemed suitable to be discharged into the Thames.
A team of specialist surveyors will be checking the removed sections of the pipe and also the ground it ran through to ensure there is no contamination of the surrounding land.
Ms Bonham Carter and Mr Burton, whose directorial claims to fame include Batman, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland and Beetlejuice, bought the property in 2006 for a reported £2.9m.
It used to be owned by her great-grandfather HH Asquith who was Prime Minister during the First World War – and who is buried in Sutton Courtenay.
RSRL spokeswoman Angela Vincent said: “The work has been ongoing for the last three weeks and, slightly weather dependent, should be finished by the end of January.
“We have respected the privacy of our neighbours and kept them informed of RSRL’s intentions and progress throughout.”
Rob Macgregor, a nuclear regulator at the Environment Agency, said: “The pipe’s integrity is good so the land around it won’t be contaminated.”
The Oxford Mail contacted Ms Bonham Carter’s agent last night but received no comment.