Edmonton

Thorhild curling club leaves legacy of contaminated soil

The ice at the old Thorhild curling club was taken out years ago. Now the county is dealing with the rink’s expensive remains: soil contaminated with heavy metals and other materials left after decades of use.

Nickel, chromium and hydrocarbons found in land around rink

A backhoe collects contaminated soil outside the old Thorhild curling club. The county has set aside $16,000 to clean up the land. (CBC)

 The ice at the old Thorhild curling club was taken out years ago. Now the county is dealing with the rink’s expensive remains: soil contaminated with heavy metals and other materials left after decades of use.

"We would make the ice, and paint it. Ice would melt and they would clean it all out. And out the back door it went," said Vivian Prodaniuk, who used to curl at the rink.  

For around 40 years, the Thorhild club served the small town’s active curling community. But a few years ago, with more young people interested in hockey tournaments than bonspiels, the club folded.

“We all got older and we couldn’t do it anymore. And there wasn’t the young people to take it over,” said former curler Phyllis Hickle.

While the club was no longer in use, the county still had to deal with the land around it. Nine soil samples taken in 2012 were contaminated with chromium, nickel and hydrocarbons.

An analysis by Thurber Engineering compared the levels with provincial guidelines for agricultural land. Those guidelines were chosen because of farming near the building.

It found nickel levels of 66mg/kg and chromium levels of 98 mg/kg.

The provincial guidelines recommend levels no higher of than 50 mg/kg and 64 mg/kg, respectively.

Hydrocarbon levels of 6,000 mg/kg, compared to the guideline of 5,400 mg/kg.

The analysis also found levels of boron exceeded the limits, but said the concentrations are typical for soil in central Alberta.

$16k set aside for reclamation

An environmental assessment suggested the contamination could have come from the equipment used in the rink or possibly from the paint used on the ice.

“It was water paint. We didn’t know if it was bad. I guess it must have been,” Hickle said.

A backhoe now works behind the curling club, filling a dump truck with contaminated soil. County council has voted to reclaim the land and has budgeted about $16,000 for the work.

County Reeve Wayne Croswell, who was against the reclamation, felt it was premature to pay for it when there is no plan yet for what to do with the land.

He worries the project will end up costing even more, and is concerned what the county will find at other sites in the area.

"If we're going to do testing and reclamation like this with every site, as a municipality we just can't afford to spend that  kind of money,” he said.

In a province where many small towns and villages once housed curling clubs, Croswell said other counties might soon face pricey reclamation bills.

"It's all over the province. We're kind of setting a precedent here, I'd say. Thing is, is it really that necessary?”

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