Alberta Health has completed soil sample testing on residential properties near the old Domtar wood treatment facility in northeast Edmonton and says it found no health concerns.
The samples were collected from homeowners’ properties in Edmonton’s Verte Homesteader neighbourhood. The results of the soil testing were released by Alberta Health on Thursday.
Soil testing was completed after the release of data in March that uncovered chemicals harmful to human health on neighbouring land. Nearly 250 samples, at a depth of 30 centimetres, were taken throughout the community, including residential properties.
“The actual locations of the testing were selected to give an overview of the community as a whole and so where those surface sampling tests were taken and where the deep sampling tests were taken were chosen in order to be able to give a picture overall of the community,” said Deena Hinshaw, deputy chief medical officer of health with Alberta Health.
“I think that people should feel confident that the way that we selected it is, again, to give us that overall picture, whether or not a specific sample was taken in someone’s backyard or not.”
While residential soil samples showed no health concerns, four areas in the southeast corner of the neighbourhood did indicate chemical levels above “health protection guidelines,” Alberta Health said.
Excess levels of dioxins and furans were discovered in these samples, which over a long period of time could lead to an increased health risk.
“Anything above those levels would be considered to be a risk to human health,” Hinshaw said. “Of course, it depends how much people are exposed to, over how long, as to what health effects they might see.
“One of the things that we can’t say specifically right now is exactly where those dioxins and furans came from.
“Until further testing is done to look at the exact patterns, it’s not possible to really say where exactly the source was of those and that’s work that’s underway.”
Additional fencing is being set up to limit public access to the affected areas, the government said.
“I certainly understand that for homeowners, this has been a distressing experience and I understand that that’s difficult and I feel bad about that,” Hinshaw said. “But from our perspective, the important thing is to limit the access to limit the risk to the people in that neighbourhood.”
In March, about 140 households in the area received a letter notifying them that recent soil sampling done on four pieces of land at the former industrial site — in the area of Yellowhead Trail and Hermitage Road — uncovered dioxins, furans and polyaromatic hydrocarbons in some soil samples.
Further soil testing was ordered at the time.
On Thursday, the government said a larger assessment of the old Domtar site continues, which involves deeper sub-surface testing and a human health risk assessment. The results of these assessments are expected in the fall.
Between 1924 and 1987, Domtar operated a wood treatment plant at the site, using creosote and other chemicals. In 1991, Domtar completed a partial reclamation of the property.
In 2013, a remediation certificate was issued for a portion of the site historically used for storing treated products.
In 2016, the Alberta government ordered Domtar and other companies to clean up the site.
A telephone tall hall will be held on Thursday night for residents of the Verte Homesteader community. Residents who wish to dial in are asked to register in advance.
Two open houses will also be held at the Clareview Recreation Centre in July to answer residents’ questions. The open houses will be held on July 3 and July 13 from 7 to 9 p.m.
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