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 2024 season.
Soil testing, replacement of soil, and the improvement of ground cover program is voluntary.
Therefore, as a first step, homeowners need to get their name on the list.
The online process is quick and easy with forms available at: THEP.ca.
Signing up is especially important for families with small children.
That’s because the THEP soil management program works to reduce children’s exposure to metals in bare soil in the Trail area. Reducing exposure can include replacing surface soil, or covering soil with things such as sod, mulch or rock.
THEP prioritizes properties closer to the smelter, focused in Trail and Rivervale. As would be expected, lead and other metals deposited in soil from historical emissions are higher closer to the smelter, and lower moving away from the operation.
The program has 95 yards scheduled to receive soil management this season.
As of early September, 60 yards have been completed with 58 receiving full soil replacement. Vegetable gardens are also prioritized and three have been replaced this season to date.
For older properties in Trail, particularly those surrounded by rock walls and terraces built over 100 years ago, even the smallest excavators cannot access these yards. This is why THEP staff has come up with innovative solutions for soil management.
This season, THEP contractors have been using vacuum trucks with hoses to remove soil from hard-to-reach locations. They’ve also been using blower units to put back clean soil.
This equipment can be noisy, but the community is reminded that clean soil benefits the entire neighbourhood as well as the child-occupied properties.
THEP has also been piloting a new initiative to manage soil on all yards within a city block at the same time. A neighbourhood-wide approach could prove to be an effective way to further reduce the exposure of children to lead.
Pilot refers to this being the first time an entire block is receiving soil management at one time. The block pilot is being monitored to ensure learning is incorporated into future program design. Blocks for the pilot initiative were identified using THEP’s existing soil management prioritization criteria, with a focus on children and known lead levels in the soil. Ground cover, accessibility for equipment and willingness of the neighbourhood to participate are other considerations that may factor into block selection.
If successful, the pilot block initiative may be repeated in the future.
Homes built before 1990 may contain lead-based paint. Lead-based paint is a hazard when it’s chipping, peeling or disturbed during renovations. Keeping dust down in the home and yard reduces the chances of children accidentally ingesting lead. As part of soil testing, THEP is also now testing exterior paint so that homeowners can be aware of other potential sources of lead in their yard. For families receiving an in-home visit, indoor paint can also be tested. All homeowners can access tips on how to limit your exposure to lead in paint. Visit thep.ca for resources.
Working with developers
Mini golf has come to Trail and THEP worked with landowners from Glenmerry Bowl to manage soil.
Using a sustainable method, the landowners are capping existing soil in place before covering with clean imported fill. The ability to cap soils in place reduces transportation needs and lessens the spread of dust. THEP supported the process with soil testing, clean fill verification and soil disposal.
If you are developing a property and seek support, email THEP: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wide area remediation
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.
The current prioritization plan is based on principles provided by the World Health Organization and US Environmental Protection Agency, and has been reviewed by the province and the Trail Area Health and Environment Committee.
Soil management is just one aspect of the Trail Area Health and Environment Program.
Visit thep.ca to learn more about other areas of THEP including Healthy Families Healthy Homes, focusing on families with children up to three years old, Lead Safe Renovation for do-it-yourself renovators and Air Quality Programs to improve and monitor lead and sulphur dioxide.
You can sign up for all programs free, including soil testing, online.