New report shows lead levels in city soil decreasing, one neighbourhood still needing work

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Lead concentration in soil across Winnipeg appears to be decreasing according to a new report from the province.

However, one neighbourhood is still above guidelines.

Manitoba Environment, Climate and Parks, along with Manitoba Health released the results of the study on Friday. The report was done as a follow-up to findings in 2019 that showed areas in the city that might have elevated lead concentration in soil.

More than 2,000 samples of soil were collected and they came from high-risk areas most often used by children under seven.

In Winnipeg, 200 public sites in 40 Winnipeg neighbourhoods had soil collected.

Following tests on the soil, it was found that 94 per cent of the samples were below the national guidelines.

However, one location in the Mission Industrial area in St. Boniface was found to have concentration levels above the national guidelines.

Recommendations for the area include using sod to cover high-lead areas and conduct supplemental sampling. The province said it will also work with the city to address the concern.

Other areas that were listed as high priority and needed action to be taken are Weston Memorial CC, La Verendrye Park, Rejoice Fun Park, William Whyte Park and Immaculate Heart of Mary School.

“Affected areas at both Mission Park and Weston Memorial CC remain accessible at this time as the ground remains frozen, which prevents leaching of any toxins from the soil. We will close off and install signage at both areas once we confirm the required limits with the Province and are able to install fencing into the (currently frozen) ground,” a spokesperson for the city said in an email to CTV News.

The report also identified communities that need further consideration based on the data. Listed are Centennial, Central St. Boniface, Daniel McIntyre, Dufresne, Holden, South Point Douglas, Weston and William Whyte.

“Property owners of sites with lead in soil levels above the national guideline have been notified and will be required to take steps to reduce potential exposure,” the province said in a news release. “This approach will depend on the amount of lead in the soil and how the land is used, and could include adding or improving sod cover.”

The province said exposure to lead in soil is low and it has dropped over the last 30 to 40 years in Canada.

“All people are exposed to trace amounts of lead through air, soil, household dust, food, drinking water and consumer products. Children and fetuses are more sensitive to lead exposure than adults and even low levels of exposure can have negative effects on their behaviour and intellectual development.”

Starting in May, the province said elevated blood lead levels will also be reportable to Manitoba Health to see if there are any sources of lead exposure and how they can be addressed.