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Privately tested soil samples showing toxin levels above AHS recommendations

Fort McMurray, AB, Canada / MIX 103.7
Privately tested soil samples showing toxin levels above AHS recommendations

Homes sit virtually untouched on edge of Stone Creek debris field // Chris Vandenbreekel - Harvard Broadcasting

Wide-ranging environmental tests being done by government aren’t expected to yield data until next week, but some residents aren’t waiting for results.

Private firms are offering sample testing services for residential properties, and the results so far are raising some concern.

DST Consulting Engineers, one of the companies offering the testing, has found that soil samples tested from Stone Creek Landing, Sommer Way, and Elmore Drive have levels of poly-aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals that are above recommended levels.

“For these certain chemicals (that we’re testing for), the government says this is how much is allowed to be present,” DST Senior Project Manager Eric Taub said. “And these samples have exceeded those numbers.”

He emphasized the results are from soil samples outside of homes where residents have requested their services. Testing inside homes have shown “moderate levels” of char, ash, and soot debris, but Taub says their reports indicate that these substances don’t pose any significant health risk to residents.

The tests have so far indicated levels that are above the Alberta government’s threshold for Tier 1 residential homes.¬†Acceptable thresholds differ depending on land use.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Karen Grimsrud recommended at the beginning of June that Abasand, Beacon Hill, and Waterways be restricted due to concerning levels of poly-aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins, and heavy metals. Asked at the time whether there was similar concern for other impacted areas such as Stone Creek, Wood Buffalo, and Saprae Creek, Grimsrud said the concentration of the chemicals were lower and it was safe for residents with homes still standing in the areas to return.

Since then, the RMWB has indicated that a second round of testing for toxins is being completed, with results expected in the first week of July. Emergency Management Director Bob Couture assured the public in Monday night’s town hall that this testing, like the first round, is being done in all neighbourhoods across the region that were impacted by the fire.

Testing by private firms has been limited to homes where residents have purchased their services. The cost can increase quickly for those who want thorough samples done, as each poly-aromatic hydrocarbon test costs $140. Taub said that environmental testing for homes on average costs about $2,000 to be received within a week. Customers also have the option to expedite their results for an additional fee.


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