MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Ottawa park contaminated with lead

Published by MAC on 2009-08-10

MAC special edition on lead

Lead poisoning may continually indefinitely - even when a factory or mine has been inoperative for decades.

In April this year, authorities in Canada's capital city closed down part of a local park, following discovery of unacceptably high levels of the heavy metal in the soil.

The area had last been used for industrial purposes more than a century before.

Ottawa park contaminated with lead

CBC News

23 April 2009

The National Capital Commission says it will fence off some areas of a park in New Edinburgh after finding they are contaminated with lead.

An NCC worker was at Stanley Park late Thursday afternoon handing out pamphlets to residents who live along the Rideau River. The pamphlet explained that a recent environmental assessment has shown that certain sections of the park are contaminated with lead and hydrocarbons.

The park site is located in an area that was used for industrial purposes about 100 years ago, the NCC said. Jean Wolf, a spokesperson for the NCC, said the contamination exceeds both federal and provincial standards for human health.

Wolf said the NCC plans to hold an information session for area residents on May 5.



Park partially closed after soil contamination discovered


No threat to river, groundwater near New Edinburgh, says NCC

By Cassandra Drudi

The Ottawa Citizen

25 April 2009
 
The City of Ottawa has closed parts of Stanley Park, Ottawa, after they discovered areas contaminated with lead.

The National Capital Commission fenced off an area of a New Edinburgh park Friday because of lead contamination that dates back to the land's former use as an industrial area.

An NCC employee was in the neighbourhood Thursday, handing out copies of a letter explaining the situation to residents who live near Stanley Park, which runs along the Rideau River from the St. Patrick Street bridge to Sussex Drive.

The park is on the site of a former industrial area that dates back to the turn of the 20th century, said Steve Blight, the NCC's director of environmental management and protection.

At one time, it was used as an industrial landfill. The area also used to consist of a couple of islands that the NCC owned.

In the 1930s or 1940s, the water between the islands was filled in with a variety of materials, Blight said.

A human health risk assessment, received by the NCC around the beginning of the month, indicates that some of the park's land contains lead and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) at levels higher than the provincial standards that pose a potential moderate risk to human health.

PAHs are organic substances mostly produced through the combustion of organic matter, either naturally or through human activity, according to information posted to Health Canada's website.

The contaminants date back to the land's former life as an industrial area, and have been in the soil for many years, Blight said.

The area of Stanley Park fenced off -- about 10 per cent of the park's total area -- is where the lead concentrations are in the surface soil. There are two distinct areas cordoned off along the edge of the park where it meets the homes on the side of Stanley Avenue closest to the river.

The entire park is affected by the above-standard levels of lead and PAHs, but aside from the cordoned off areas, the contaminants are not in the surface soil.

There is no evidence that the groundwater or river are affected by the contaminants, Blight said.

The NCC is cautioning residents not to dig or break the surface vegetation -- grass and shrubs -- in the park. "The key message here, certainly on the NCC lands, is to not be digging, and to leave the surface vegetation as intact as possible," Blight said.

The NCC plans to cap the affected areas with a layer of new soil and clean sod. A certain thickness of cover is required, and as a result the NCC is working on a plan to re-landscape the whole park. That longer-term plan will be pursued this summer.

"In the meantime, the park is safe as long as there's no digging in the soil," said Blight.

David Sacks, president of the New Edinburgh Community Alliance, said that although the community is happy the NCC has taken quick action in notifying residents about the contamination, people wonder why this contamination hadn't come to light sooner.

"We're very pleased with the NCC's swift movement, but none of it seems like it should be new news," he said. People are also wondering what the effect of contaminants might be on toddlers and pets, and are looking forward to learning more about the issue at the public meeting. Residents are invited to a meeting to discuss the contamination on May 5 at 7:30 p.m. at the Aviation Museum.

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