December 13, 2019

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Veggies safe to eat, playground OK

St. Boniface soil-contaminant levels pose no threat, officials say

From right: Don Labossiere, director of environmental compliance and enforcement for Manitoba Sustainable Development, Francis Zvomuya, department of soil sciences at the University of Manitoba, Matt Allard, city councillor St. Boniface, and Rochelle Squires, Sustainable Development Minister at the news conference Monday regarding the St. Boniface soil testing results. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

From right: Don Labossiere, director of environmental compliance and enforcement for Manitoba Sustainable Development, Francis Zvomuya, department of soil sciences at the University of Manitoba, Matt Allard, city councillor St. Boniface, and Rochelle Squires, Sustainable Development Minister at the news conference Monday regarding the St. Boniface soil testing results. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press)

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/10/2017 (787 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba’s sustainable development minister says it is safe for St. Boniface residents to eat their garden-grown veggies and allow their children to play at Happyland Park.

Rochelle Squires told a news conference at the Manitoba Legislative Building an analysis of soil samples taken over the summer shows metal contaminants did not exceed recommended levels in residential or recreational areas.

The only place where raised levels of contaminants were discovered was in an industrial park, which came as no surprise, she said Monday.

"All the soil samples taken in the residential and recreational areas showed no reason for concern," Squires said.

Shirley Thompson, an associate professor in the natural resources institute at the University of Manitoba, had previously advised residents in a south St. Boniface neighbourhood not to eat vegetables grown in their gardens after soil samples revealed high levels of lead, copper and zinc in at least three locations in the area.

The province hadn’t analyzed the data at that point.

On Monday, Squires, flanked by area city Coun. Matt Allard, U of M soils sciences professor Francis Zvomuya and Don Labossiere, Manitoba’s director of environmental compliance and enforcement, said the public risk from metal contaminants in the area is "very low."

Soil samples were taken at eight sites along a line cutting through the industrial and residential areas of St. Boniface parallel to Archibald Street and the Seine River.

"Of the two samples in the Dufresne neighbourhood, the results were fully within the CCME (Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment) guidelines for a residential area. For Happyland Park, the results were within the CCME guidelines for parkland," Squires said.

Although all results were within the guidelines, there was an indication of elevated levels of lead in some samples, she said.

"This is not inconsistent with previous studies in Winnipeg and other metropolitan areas. Lead can come from a number of sources but the two most prevalent sources are from leaded paint and automobile exhaust emissions from the days when there was lead in gasoline," the minister said.

"While the concerns over the consumption of garden vegetables may persist, any risk can be mitigated by taking basic steps such as thoroughly washing your vegetables and hands, using raised garden beds and putting new soils into gardens on a regular basis."

Zvomuya said his advice to area residents is "don’t panic."

"Don’t let your vegetables go to waste," he said, adding the university will be conducting more tests in the area.

He said any metals in the soil are not easily dissolved and transferred to the edible portion of plants.

"The last thing that I want to see is… residents, in panic, selling their houses because there are contaminants out there," Zvomuya said.

Thompson couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

Squires said Thompson’s assertion about high metals levels in parts of St. Boniface "was not incorrect," but the results "were not put into proper context."

"We want to assure residents that the parkland is safe, their backyards are safe, their boulevards are safe and that the exceedances (metal contaminates exceeding guidelines) exist only in the industrial park," she said.

The South St. Boniface Residents Association issued a statement Monday saying it had not been contacted by either the province or Allard about the most recent report.

"We continue to hope that the province and the city will reach out directly to residents and to the association in an effort to work together. We are grateful that University of Manitoba researchers are involved in the process," the statement said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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History

Updated on Monday, October 16, 2017 at 4:58 PM CDT: Updated, adds sidebar.

10:36 PM: Headline changed.

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