Skip to content

Australians tap into Trail successes with reducing lead exposure

THEP has caught the attention of Australian communities that also have active smelting operations

For the past few summers the Trail Times has highlighted the salient undertakings the Trail Area Health and Environment Program (THEP) has been carrying out in the Trail area through ground and garden redressments.

Yard-by-yard, leaders in the soil remediation program have been giving families clean and safe outdoor spaces to play by removing historically polluted soil and replacing it with new soil that is free of lead and other heavy metal fallout from the Trail smelter.

While the critical work of soil remediation continues on the homefront making it a timely story, this summer there is something new to report.

The Trail team recently hosted some very special first-time visitors after THEP’s accomplishments of drastically reducing community exposure to lead and other smelter metals became notable afar, on another continent.

In fact, THEP successes have caught the attention of Australian communities that also have active smelting operations.

Hoping to learn from Trail’s experience, over three days in late June, government, company and community representatives from South Australia participated in face-to-face and virtual learning sessions with THEP staff.

Visitors met with their counterparts to discuss health, air quality, soil management, community engagement and governance. The week ended with a commitment to developing a global community of learning and knowledge sharing for programs that focus on enabling a healthy community where active lead smelting facilities operate.

“In our eyes, Trail and the surrounding area is a truly beautiful part of the world,” notes Sophie Martin from the South Australian Environmental Protection Authority. “The amazing mountain and valley landscape, plus the sheer volume of water in the Columbia River is a stark contrast to the Australian landscape. Our impression is that the staff involved in the Trail Area Health and Environment Program are doing a really good job at ensuring the community’s needs are at the centre of all the work they do,” Martin said.

“We observed that the community representatives involved are very invested in ensuring success. Everyone was very welcoming and open with their knowledge and experience and we hope that we are able to repay the hospitality shown to us if any of the people we met make a visit to South Australia in the future.”

Through soil remediation, lead-safe renovation and health families/healthy homes planning as well as vastly improved air quality (fugitive dust reduction) managed by Teck Trail Operations, the average blood lead level in local children has been less than three micrograms per decilitre since 2018 and Pb (lead) in air as measured at Butler Park in Trail, sits well below the standard set by the USA Environmental Protection Agency.

“We are very proud of the accomplishments made in Trail over the years to always be a community with thriving families, environment and economy,” Lisa Pasin, Trail Mayor and THEC chair, said following the visit by the Australians. “We are very open to sharing our experience and learning with other communities that have active lead-based industries as well.”

Results from the 2021 children’s blood lead testing clinic show that the average blood lead level for children aged six to 36 months in Trail and Rivervale was 2.5 micrograms per decilitre. This is similar to the previous three years with an average of 2.3 in 2020, 2.6 in 2019 and 2.9 in 2018.

The THEC (Trail Area Health and Environment Committee) Air Quality Program, managed by Teck Trail Operations, continues to reduce lead in the environment through the comprehensive Fugitive Dust Reduction Program. The 2021 average for lead in community air was 0.07 micrograms per cubic metre.

Read more: As fall nears, Trail homeowners encouraged to sign up for soil testing

Read more: Yard by yard, Trail program gives families clean spaces to play

Read more: Soil remediation in high gear throughout Trail

About THEC

This committee is a transparent platform for multi-stakeholder dialogue, collective decision-making and community engagement specific to the Trail Area Health and Environment Program. The committee has operated since 1990 and for the first 11 years, it was known as the Trail Community Lead Task Force. In 2001, THEC was established with a similar structure and purpose to reduce children’s exposure to lead and other smelter metals in the community. The Trail mayor sits as committee chair.

About THEP

THEP’s purpose is to support the community of Trail and surrounding areas to live, work and play in an area influenced by smelter air emissions. THEP works collaboratively to reduce exposure to smelter air emissions such as Pb (lead) and SO2 (sulphur dioxide) by improving air quality, providing community-based education and programs to reduce children’s blood lead levels, and ultimately improve peoples’ health.

Trail and area residents can sign up for all programs online.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Sheri Regnier

About the Author: Sheri Regnier

Read more