Manitoba

St. Boniface air quality will be tested, province vows again

The provincial government is again promising to test for air quality in the city's French quarter — seven months after making the same commitment.

Mobile air monitoring station will be set up near the St. Boniface industrial park

Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires acknowledges that concern about air quality in St. Boniface has been a longstanding issue. (Wendy Beulow/CBC)
The provincial government is again promising to test for air quality in the city's French quarter — seven months after making the same commitment.

A mobile air monitoring station will be installed next to the St. Boniface industrial park later this summer, the province said Wednesday in response to media reports this week of soil contamination. Plans are in the works to consult the community on the specific placement of the device. 

The province explained it has obtained the device after saying in December it would buy it.

St. Boniface residents have raised a stink for years over the odour, dust, gases, haze, noise and other air pollutants in areas of the neighbourhood, particularly around the industrial park.

A residents group put pressure on the government last year over concerns of contaminated soil.

Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires and Don Labossiere, Manitoba's director of environmental compliance and enforcement, both vowed to make the data collected from the monitoring station publicly available.

"The intent is to have the information up on our webpage in real time," Labossiere said. "We will be available and more than willing to provide analysis and feedback on the numbers."    

Squires said she is waiting to hear from St. Boniface residents as to where the monitoring station should be placed in the area. She wouldn't go as far as promising any measures to remediate contaminated soil or budget money to prevent further contamination. 

"There is always going to be challenges when have neighbourhoods and industrial communities side-by-side and that is more of a zoning issue that we made the city aware of some of the concerns we have to the zoning," she said.  

Contaminated soil

CBC News learned Tuesday their concerns were valid: soil samples at 24 yards and gardens in St. Boniface tested positive for heavy metal contamination.
An exact date to install a mobile air-quality testing device near the St. Boniface Industrial Park has yet to be set. ((Province of Manitoba))

Questions surrounding the soil quality came to light last summer when a University of Manitoba researcher took a sample, which led researchers to test samples from more than 100 residential properties.

Residents learned the results of the study last week. The province did not announce the findings publicly because of blackout restrictions on certain government communications, it said.

Preliminary results released last October showed "there was no reason for concern," Squires said on Monday.

Squires said last year the province's air quality and soil departments "were drastically cut" under the previous NDP administration.

She explained the government must rebuild its equipment inventory, including the addition of a mobile unit.

"Our government was elected on a promise to fix the services and that is exactly what we are doing," she said. 

St. Boniface's new MLA weighs in

Manitoba Liberal leader Dougald Lamont, who was elected MLA of St. Boniface Tuesday evening, said the government isn't doing enough to protect St. Boniface residents.

Lamont said he wants to see the government better enforce and update environmental laws. He noted that while zoning may fall to the city, it is up to the province to grant environmental licenses.

"There needs to be big enough buffer between industrial and residential sites," Lamont said. 

"We have to figure out what the source is of this stuff and how we can prevent it from happening. The faster we can do that, the better."

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. He has previously worked for newspapers in Brandon and Steinbach. Story idea? Email: ian.froese@cbc.ca.

With files from the CBC's Kristin Annable

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