New Brunswick

1981 report shows radon levels in Harvey Station, N.B.

The New Brunswick Health Department is examining files dating back 27 years to determine what happened to a government report on high radon levels in some homes in Harvey Station, N.B.

The New Brunswick Health Department is examining files dating back 27 years to determine what happened to a government report on high radon levels in some homes in Harvey Station, N.B.

In 1981, the Health Department tested 41 homes in Harvey Station, which is southwest of Fredericton, and another 45 outside the village to measure for the presence of radon and uranium.

Radon is a radioactive element that comes from rocks bearing uranium and is often linked to the risk of developing lung cancer.

Inka Milewski, a science adviser with the conservation council, found the report in government archives while doing unrelated research.

"Forty-one per cent of homes had radon levels above the national guidelines, and radon level in the wells' water was above national guidelines for about the same amount, about 40 to 50 per cent of the homes," Milewski said.

The study also indicates about a quarter of the wells tested had uranium levels above the national standards.

The report piqued Milewski's interest, but when she looked into the issue further, she found the paper trail connected to the study seemed to end with a draft letter to inform residents about the results that was never sent.

"I can only conclude that they sat on this information. They knew it was a sensitive issue. They knew it could potentially cause concern among the residents and basically they withheld the information from the residents," Milewski said.

"I'm shocked that they were never told about the problems and that nothing was never done about it."

'Must be more than meets the eye': health minister

The Health Department is looking into the matter, said Health Minister Mike Murphy.

"We have to find out what other documentation and circumstances surrounded that report to determine the full picture. It seems somewhat odd to me that that report would be there in isolation. I think there must be more than meets the eye," Murphy said.

Milewski provided the report to the mayor and council in Harvey Station. The community has been surprised by the results contained in the document, said Harvey Station Mayor Winston Gamblin.

"This report worries us because it's been left for so long and never been opened up."

Gamblin said many people in the community remember the study being conducted in 1981, but had thought it was never completed.

"So we're kind of concerned that the government of the day didn't finish the job," he said.

Residents should have been told if the government thought there was a health issue, said local resident Ted Wiggans.

"We should [have] at least been made aware of it and then we could take whatever precautions would be necessary," Wiggans said. "We should have been notified years ago."