J.D. Irving Ltd. spent Wednesday cleaning up the playground at Saint Rose School in Saint John after it was covered with grey ash from the company’s pulp and paper mill.
Mary Keith, a vice-president with J.D. Irving, said the ash is not harmful and is left over from the plant's biomass wood burning facility.
The ash is stockpiled at the rear of the mill until spring, but there wasn’t enough snow covering the ash to keep it in one place. A recent storm blew enough of the ash to end up in places like the Saint Rose schoolyard.
Keith said Irving regrets the problem it has caused for the school and the neighbourhood. So the forestry company is paying for the cleanup.
But she said there is no need for people to be concerned about coming into contact with the ash.
"It moves out to farmer's fields. So this material, this wood ash is certified by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. It would undergo monthly testing as part of that protocol and it is used ultimately on food crops," she said.
Keith said the company will begin spraying down the ash pile to make sure it stays put during the next storm.
Zoë Watson, the superintendent of the Anglophone South School District, said she was informed by the departments of Health and Environment about the cleanup on Tuesday.
"We were told it was not due to health and safety issues. It was due to the fact it was an elementary school," Watson said.
"And when students get out in it and roll around in it and this wood ash would have their snow suits and their clothes very dirty."
Watson said the cleanup should be completed by Thursday so the students will be allowed back outside.
Tests also have been done on air quality inside the school.