Yard and garden clean-up has shifted into high gear this summer as the Trail Area Health and Environment Program (THEP) digs into more soil replacement projects than previous years.
“So far in 2019 we have completed 39 remediation projects and we are about halfway through the season,” Andrea McCormick, Soil Remediation Project Manager, told the Trail Times.
“Our goal was 75 remediations this year and are expecting to complete remediation on over 80 properties this year. In addition to full yard remediations, we are also working at up to 100 properties to improve ground cover or provide vegetable garden replacement.”
Comparatively, over the past several years, full remediation would be completed on about 20 to 25 properties annually and ground cover improvements on up to 30 properties.
So why the big increase now?
“Operational improvements at Teck have resulted in improved air quality, which means that Teck is not adding as many metals such as lead to the soil,” McCormick explained.
“We can now focus more on addressing historical impacts from past emissions. As such, the THEP is expanding our program that has been in place since 2007, which includes soil testing, and replacement of soil or improvements to ground cover where warranted,” she said.
“This program will continue to expand over the coming years as a long-term remediation plan is developed to address historical soil impacts.”
While remediation jobs are spread throughout the city, the majority is located closer to the plant. That’s why properties on the program’s prioritized list are generally located in Trail and Rivervale (Area B).
“As would be expected, lead and other metals in soil are higher closer to the operation, and lower moving away from the operation,” McCormick said. “Our immediate focus is properties that are expected to have higher levels of metals in the soil, such as those nearest the smelter. We have worked in nearly every neighbourhood from Rivervale to Glenmerry and will continue to do so for the remaining projects.”
For soil remediation specifically, the program looks at three criteria to determine how properties are prioritized. Those key factors are; proximity to the smelter, the presence of children under six, and the presence of ground cover, such as grass, and lead levels in soil.
The age of six years is the current proxy because older children have a higher tolerance to potential exposure.
The program’s ultimate goal, however, is to identify and offer soil testing to all residential properties in the Trail area with children under 12 years old present.
“We would encourage parents and caretakers of children under 12 in the Trail area to contact the Trail Area Health and Environment Program to determine their eligibility for soil testing,” said McCormick. “Additionally, with our new 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.”
All soil testing and improvement work is coordinated and paid for by the Trail area program, through funding provided by Teck Trail operations. Of note, is that all contaminated soil is disposed of in the Teck landfill.
“Teck Metals has invested approximately $5 million toward the soil management program this year alone as part of its continued commitment to healthy homes and gardens in the Trail area,” McCormick said.
“This is an increase from previous years consistent with the expansion of the program.”
While there is no cost to the landowner for yard remediation, some homeowners have chosen to add additional features at their own cost, such as irrigation or more plants.
The 2019 Soil Management Plan is 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,” said McCormick. “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.”
Andrea McCormick is a professional Agrologist working out of the THEP Community Program Office for SNC-Lavalin Inc. She has been remediating yards in Trail since 2008.
Anyone with children under 12 living in the Trail/Rivervale area is encouraged to visit the program office at 1319 Bay Avenue, call 250-368-3256, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Information is available 24/7 on the THEP website, www.thep.ca.