With another successful summer of soil remediation soon wrapping up, staff at the Trail Health and Environment Program (THEP) is encouraging homeowners to sign up in advance of the 2022 season.
Since the program — which includes soil testing and replacement of ground cover — is voluntary, homeowners need to sign up.
The online process is quick and easy with forms available at: THEP.ca.
Many property owners in the Trail area have not yet signed up. With this in mind, the Trail Times (TT) contacted THEP’s soil remediation manager Andrea McCormick (AM), for fundamentals about the program as well as an update on work completed to date.
TT: Why is it important to promote soil testing?
AM: There are many properties in the Trail area that have not had their soil tested. We have completed over 1,900 soil tests across the soil management program area but gaps remain. It helps THEP, Teck and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy understand the number of properties that may eventually require soil remediation work and helps us respond quickly when a property is prioritized. For example, if there is a rental property and a family with a young child moves in, if the soil has already been tested, we can quickly prioritize the property for remediation where warranted. More importantly, it educates homeowners as to what metals are present in their soil. As well, there have been changes to soil disposal requirements in the local area so having an understanding of the metals levels in your yard is important. This can help avoid delays if you are doing a project such as landscaping or anything that requires soil disposal.
TT: What is the target number of projects for soil testing and remediation this year? Where does the number currently stand?
AM: In 2021 we have tested the soil in over 100 properties and we would like to test 300. We encourage everyone to sign up online at thep.ca. As for remediation, in 2021 to date we have completed 30 remediation projects and more than 50 ground cover improvements. Our goal is to work on ALL the top priority properties this year (we work until October) and we are expecting to complete this despite delays due to heat and smoke. The weather has been a big challenge this year in addition to following public health orders due to COVID-19.
TT: Are there more projects in 2021 than the program usually works to complete annually?
AM: The program has been maintaining the pace set in 2019 when the soil management program expanded.
TT: Where are the majority of projects located?
AM: We work in all neighbourhoods in Trail and have also completed some projects this year in outlying communities such as Annable, Oasis and Waneta. We focus on any property that has bare soil, young children and soil metals over our thresholds regardless of the neighbourhood. We have worked in nearly every neighbourhood from Oasis to Waneta and will continue to do so for the remaining projects.
TT: What is the budget this year? Is the budget the same every year?
AM: All soil testing and improvement work is coordinated and paid for by the Trail Area Health and Environment Program, through funding provided by Teck. Similar to previous years, Teck Metals has invested approximately $5 million toward the soil management program alone as part of its continued commitment to healthy homes and gardens in the Trail area. There is no cost to the landowner for soil testing or yard remediation. However, some homeowners have chosen to add additional aspects at their own cost such as irrigation or additional plants.
TT: What happens to the contaminated soil after it is removed from the property?
AM: Soil is disposed at the Teck landfill.
TT: Is there anything else readers should know?
AM: The program expanded in 2019 with increased visibility in our local neighbourhoods and we are continuing that pace. As such, we are very thankful for the patience and support the community has given us both on the properties we are working on and within the neighbourhoods where we have been working. Annual Soil Management Plans are an interim step focused on highest risk properties. Teck and the THEP is working with the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy to develop and seek approval for a long-term soil management plan called a Wide Area Remediation Plan. Once that plan is drafted, a full public consultation will take place prior to approval and implementation. It is important to note that soil management is just one aspect of the Trail Area Health and Environment Program. Other existing components of the program will continue, including Healthy Homes and Family Health, focusing on families with children up to three years old, and Lead Safe Renovation for do-it-yourself renovators. You can sign up for all programs, including soil testing, online. It’s a simple form on thep.ca.
TT: And, just to confirm, are properties where children run around (aged 6 and under) the priority?
AM: Yes, our aim is to identify and offer soil testing to all residential properties. Properties with children under 12 years old present will be prioritized. Additionally, with our prioritization we are reviewing all previous soil assessment data where we haven’t completed remediation. If you have had your soil tested previously and have children under 12, please contact the program to review those results with our program team. For soil remediation there are three criteria to determine how properties are prioritized for soil management: the presence and age of children; the quality of ground cover, such as grass; and lead levels in soil. Older children have a higher tolerance to potential exposure, while younger children have lower tolerance to exposure. Properties with children under 6 will be prioritized before those with older children and those without children.
Andrea McCormick is a professional Agrologist. She has worked with THEP since 2008. The THEP Community Program Office for SNC-Lavalin Inc. is located at 1319 Bay Ave. in downtown Trail.