Trail Health and Environment Committee members (from the left) Ron Joseph

Trail Health and Environment Committee members (from the left) Ron Joseph

Local lead levels stabilizing but work continues

The latest results from the Trail Health and Environment Committee indicate stabilized blood lead levels in Greater Trail children.

The latest results from the Trail Health and Environment Committee appear to indicate that blood lead levels of children participating in the committee’s testing program have stabilized in recent years.

However, the committee added more effort is needed in order to achieve the stringent goals set to further reduce local children’s exposure to lead.

Committee members from the City of Trail, Teck Trail Operations, Interior Health, the BC Ministry of Environment, and a variety of community representatives met Tuesday night to share results and discuss new goals and strategies for the coming year.

Jeannine Stefani, Trail Lead Health Services Coordinator for Interior Health, reported that the number of children participating in the program increased in 2012 over the 2011 rates by five per cent, although the percentage of test results meeting the program’s goals of less than 10 micrograms per decilitre showed a slight decline.

“The statistics suggest a plateau in the test results over the last decade,” said Stefani. “The variability could be due to numerous factors but it’s difficult to identify any one reason due to the small number of test subjects in the survey.”

Teck Trail Operations Superintendent of Environmental Remediation, Mark Tinholt, summarized the air testing results in the Trail area. Although emissions from the smoke stacks has shown a steady decline, from over 100 tonnes per year in the 1990’s to under half a tonne per year currently, the amount of suspended particulate measured at the various community test stations remains steady.

“We suspect that the particulate that is still present could be a result of fugitive dust escaping from the plant,” said Tinholt.

Bill Jankola, Teck’s Superintendent of Operations Environmental Projects, described the measures being taken to limit the dust believed to be causing the steady levels detected. New structures are being designed and built to limit dust emissions from the property and a new truck washing station and dust reduction sprays are being tested at Teck Operations.

“We’re working on road dust testing and road cleaning priorities have changed,” said Jankola. “We’re working to eliminate the causes of contaminants on-site.

“We also have an ambient air monitoring system in the testing phase that measures metal particulate on a real-time, hourly basis with an alarm fan-out system that alerts people at the plant to a potential problem.”

Ruth Beck, Manager for the Trail Area Health and Environment Program discussed the process of developing the goals for the coming year explaining that the Program was becoming more closely aligned with standards set by the US Centers for Disease Control for dealing with elevated lead levels in communities.

The new strategy focuses more on the primary prevention of lead exposure, working with families before children start to show elevated blood lead levels.

“We will be visiting every family in Trail with children 12 months and under, offering services and materials,” said Beck.

“We’re also starting to make more connections in the health care system with physicians, looking at child development as a whole.”

Committee Chair, Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs said the committee recognized the plateau in blood lead levels but that they still want to see them drop.

“We are not at a point of complacency with this, we are still striving to meet our goals,” said Bogs.

“We need more coordinated family services and continued improvement in dealing with families in the area as well as working with Teck on the fugitive dust issues. We see this as an ongoing process in family and child development for our area.”