The spread of garbage-filled compost over close to four hectares of land in Yarmouth County made residents nervous about ground water contamination. Now testing shows traces of lead in wells of two nearby homes.

"Had it not been for that incident, the residents up there probably would have never learned about the presence of lead and other chemicals in their well water, and in the water table, that we believe came from former Ibbitson sawmill," said Coun. Ken Langille, chair of the Yarmouth water utility.

The Ibbitson sawmill in Lake George closed in 2004. 

The Town of Yarmouth acquired it in 2005 and dismantled the mill.

Langille says staff decided to spread the compost—which came from the municipality—over the property last summer with the intention of reseeding the area and making it into a field.

The municipality says the compost was Class B, a less pure type of compost that can contain as much as three pieces of sharp glass per half litre.

But Langille maintains what was spread in his area "definitely wasn't Class B."

"It had far more residuals in it than Class B compost, under [what] environment guidelines allows."

'Knives and forks and spoons'

When residents saw all the trash surfacing from the ground, they complained.

"There was everything from knives and forks and spoons that people threw in their garbage, in their compost. It's unimaginable the amount of material that is up there," he said.

"The tests came back last week and the amount of material found in the groundwater in no way would be coming from the compost," he said.

Langille says the discovery of the lead makes the cleanup plan more complicated.

"We have to be very careful not to mess things up anymore than it's been messed up."

The Town of Yarmouth will be holding a public meeting Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. at the Lake George Fire Hall to discuss the cleanup. 

The Nova Scotia Environment Department, the testing company EnGlobe and professor Paul Arnold from Acadia University will be at the meeting to take questions from residents.