Talking about a public health issue that sounds a little scary, can actually be quite empowering. Especially when those words are backed up with fact, accessibility, and action.
“I think it really helps to hear about blood lead levels even though it can be quite worrisome at first,” says Glen Byle, a Trail father of three. “Once you go through the program (THE, Trail Area Health and Environment Program) and see the current levels compared to historic averages, it actually makes it less scary – and lead is everywhere from lead in gasoline, not just in Trail,” he added. “We are lucky here because our kids are tested and we know what their levels are, somewhere else there might be contamination and they would never even know because their kids aren’t being tested.”
That’s where the “Let’s start talking” campaign comes in.
The Trail Area Health and Environment Committee (THEC) began its community consultation last week by launching a survey that’s easy to follow, hits the marks about current lead reduction programs, and includes arsenic and lead emission targets for 2020.
“Community air quality and children’s lead levels have improved significantly since our program started,” says Mike Martin, Trail mayor and THEC chair. “Today we want to hear what our residents have to say – how our programs are working and what more can we do in the future.”
Public consultations are only held once or twice a decade, Martin added.
“Our program is driven by the community and we depend on local input to know if our programs are meeting current needs and if our health and environment goals are acceptable. I would encourage all Lower Columbia residents to participate.”
The survey is available until Oct. 31 and can be accessed a number of ways: on the program website, thep.ca; on paper; or by registering for a focus group through the program office at 1319 Bay Ave.
Besides gathering insight, the survey asks participants if they are aware of key programs that are voluntary and free, like ‘Healthy Homes. ’ In-home visits are made to families with young children and valuable support is offered such as “Lead Safe Renovation” for residences in Trail and Rivervale as well as pre-1976 homes in the Lower Columbia region.
And this is one program Byle is particularly well versed in – he’s been “DIY” (do-it-yourself) since buying his 1950s Shaver’s Bench home eight years ago.
All he recalls from those early years is dust – and a lot of it.
“I was just new to renovating so I didn’t know about all the protective equipment and how important it is,” Byle said. “Now that I’ve done more and learned more (about reducing lead exposure) by talking with the program, I know how important it is – I wish I had known about this program when I first started renovating.”
So what’s Byle’s advice for young families fixing up their first home?
“I’d say talk to ‘THE’ program,” he said. “Because they can give a lot of advice on what the best materials are to use, how to use them, and how to minimize dust. They don’t just provide the equipment – they will come into your house and help you use it appropriately.”
He also advises young families to call the program before embarking on outside fixes – just one call can bring help from the experts and help keep the pocketbook in check.
“We did have our soil tested but had already replaced our grass, so we didn’t meet the minimal levels required (for program remediation),” Byle explained.”We spent a lot of hours and a couple thousand dollars doing it ourselves when they would have done a better job by replacing the soil deeper than what we did – and there would have been cost savings as well.”
Trail Area Health and Environment programs are available for parents or people planning a family, home renovators, local residents, health professionals, and people interested in Teck’s ecosystem restoration projects.
For more information and to complete the survey, visit thep.ca.