MAC: Mines and Communities

Dalhousie, Canada - Noranda's heavy metal contamination

Published by MAC on 2005-11-15

Dalhousie, Canada - Noranda's heavy metal contamination

by CCNB, Canada

November 2005

Inka Milewski, Science Advisor, Conservation Council of New Brunswick

Consultants hired by Noranda[now part of Falconbridge], to examine the extent of heavy metal contamination from the operation of their ore concentrate storage facility in the Dalhousie area confirmed the results of CCNB’s soil tests in the area at an open house held in October. The study of soils in the Dalhousie area was commissioned after sampling by Transport Canada in 2004 found elevated levels of heavy metals at the west wharf area of the port of Dalhousie.

Since the mid 1960’s, zinc concentrate from Noranda’s mining operation near Bathurst was shipped by rail to the port and stored in massive open piles in the west wharf area. The concentrate was a fine-grained material containing lead, zinc and other metals. The ore concentrate facility was closed in 1997.

Sampling by CCNB staff in July 2005 found elevated concentrations of four trace metals (lead, arsenic, zinc and nickel) above the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) guidelines for residential/park soils on private and public properties in the Dalhousie area.

The sampling was done as part of the CCNB’s Environmental Justice Program which is examining the extent of heavy metal contamination in northern New Brunswick. The “hotspot” of contamination according to the CCNB and the Noranda consultants was downwind of the former ore-concentrate facility.

The Conservation Council has called for an immediate clean-up of contaminated properties and it has asked the Department of Health and Welleness to amend the terms of reference for a health risk study in the area.

In the meantime, Noranda consultants will do more testing in the area and conduct a risk assessment to examine the future health risk of current contamination in the area. The results of doing such a study are questionable since most of the risks to human health in the area occurred when the ore handling facility was operational. At that time and for the preceding decades, adults and children would have come into contact with the contaminants in several ways: breathing contaminated air, touching and consuming contaminated soil (particularly in the case of children) and/or consuming food grown in contaminated soil. Since the closure of the facility in 1997, exposure to airborne heavy metals from the facility have largely been eliminated.

The Conservation Council will be establishing a children health registry in the Dalhousie area. The registry will be similar to the registry being developed in Belledune and will provide valuable information on the health status of children in area. It can be used to inform parents and alert public health officials of potential health issues in the community. As was the case with the Belledune health study, the health of children is often under-represented in community health risk assessments and studies.

[This article was published in a newsletter of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, entitled "Eco-Alert", November 2005. For a copy of CCNB’s report on soil testing in the Dalhousie area, please contact Inka Milewski at, or Isabelle Aubé, Program Assistant for CCNB’s Environmental Justice Program at]

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