Manitoba

Release of new soil tests will show lead contamination still a problem in Winnipeg, Squires confirms

The results of more than 100 lead tests taken across Winnipeg will soon be released and Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires says the results show lead contamination persists within the city.

Government took more than 100 samples across the city following CBC report

Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires says the new tests show lead levels at some sites remain above national safety guidelines. (Warren Kaye/CBC )

The results of more than 100 soil tests taken across Winnipeg will soon be released and Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires says the results show lead contamination persists within the city.

The testing came as a result of a CBC investigation which uncovered a buried report on soil testing done over a decade ago that showed lead contamination above national safety guidelines.

Some of the highest levels were in the area of North Point Douglas and Weston School.

"I have been provided a little bit of an assessment and it is fair to say that work is going to be needed to be done on this file," she said Tuesday.

"We are seeing some preliminary results where the lead report is flat and in some cases just go down very moderately."

Squires didn't know if any came back higher, but said it was concerning that a decade after the samples were taken, the lead levels had not decreased. 

The 2007 and 2008 samples showed several spots where lead exceeded the levels deemed acceptable for human health by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment.

The acceptable level is 140 parts per million. One result showed 2,240 ppm on Angus Street near Sutherland Avenue in Point Douglas. At Weston School sport field, one sample came back at 815 ppm.

Following the release of the buried report, the government promised to do more testing to replicate what was done in 2007 and 2008.

The news came on the same day CBC News released the results of independent soil testing it commissioned this fall.

The results showed all four of the home gardens tested in the North Point Douglas area had lead levels above national safety guidelines.

Results from four Point Douglas gardens came back with higher-than-acceptable levels of lead. (CBC)

The release of CBC's tests had Manitoba Liberal leader Dougald Lamont wondering why the Pallister government is taking so long to release its own results.

"How is that the CBC can have soil tested and have results reviewed by experts who deliver advice and action items faster than this government can?" Lamont asked Tuesday in question period. 

The results of the government's tests are expected to be released this week once the locations have been confirmed and results analyzed, Squires said.

The minister said she didn't know the specific locations where the new round of tests came back with high lead levels, but said in some cases the samples came back at levels equal to what was recorded over a decade.

"We know we are going to have to take some action, so we will be looking at options," she said.

CBC took 18 samples in areas highlighted in the buried report. Squires said the province took 116 samples in various areas including Gordon Bell High School and the Archibald Tot Lot.

She said she will better understand the results after a briefing on Wednesday. She was unclear on what action her government will be taking, but suggested it may partner with the University of Manitoba.

Manitoba's public health department will take the lead role on sharing the information and how residents can protect themselves, she said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kristin Annable is a member of CBC's investigative unit based in Winnipeg. She can be reached at kristin.annable@cbc.ca

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