Manitoba

Fences going back up around Weston School field pending more tests for lead in soil

The Winnipeg School Division put up fencing at Weston School last fall to keep kids off the field after soil tests showed unacceptably high lead levels.

2007 test results showed samples from Winnipeg school's field contained elevated levels of lead contamination

The field at Weston Elementary School was opened up again after the snow fell, because the risk of exposure to lead in the soil was low. Now that the spring thaw has arrived, the Winnipeg School Division will reinstall the fencing until more testing can be done. (John Einarson/CBC)

Students at Weston School are about to lose access to their sports field again over concerns about lead levels in soil.

The Winnipeg School Division says it will reinstall fencing put up last fall to keep kids off the field, after soil tests showed unacceptably high lead levels.

"We don't want anybody to be on the field until we know for sure that it's safe, or that we've done something in partnership with the province to remediate the soil," said Radean Carter, spokesperson for the school division.

The fencing went up in September, after the release of test results from 2007 that showed 19 of 22 samples taken from the field contained levels of lead contamination that exceeded national guidelines for human health protection.

The province sets the maximum limit for lead in soil  at 140 parts per million. Some of the Weston samples from 2007 showed concentrations several times that.

The results of the tests were detailed in a draft report dated July 2009, and a near-identical draft dated 2011, that were obtained by CBC News. Neither draft report was ever publicly released at the time by the NDP government.

The division doesn't yet know what work might need to be done for the soil to meet provincial guidelines, said Carter. The fencing was put back up "out of an abundance of caution," he said.

The elementary school's field was opened up again after the snow fell, because the risk of exposure was low. Now that the spring thaw has arrived the school division decided to reinstall the fencing until more testing can be done.

The province has issued a request for proposals to do further soil tests, expected to be completed this fall.

"Then we'll be able to come up with some kind of a plan that will make it safe for students and staff to use," said Carter.

Although the students won't be able to use the field at the school, Carter said there are parks in the area where tests showed acceptable lead levels that can be used for some activities.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cameron MacLean is a journalist for CBC Manitoba living in Winnipeg, where he was born and raised. He has more than a decade of experience reporting in the city and across Manitoba, covering a wide range of topics, including courts, politics, housing, arts, health and breaking news. Email story tips to cameron.maclean@cbc.ca.

With files from Kristin Annable and Katie Nicholson

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