City considers $450K to remediate contaminated soil in park, community rink

Two areas in the city where the province found lead in soil samples have been temporarily shut down until the city can take action.

The public service is recommending the city spend $450,000 for soil remediation work at the eastern corner of Mission Park, and the hockey rink at the Weston Memorial Community Centre.

This comes after the province commissioned soil lead samplings of 53 schools and 149 parks across Winnipeg last year.

Of the parks sampled, the city says 97 were below lead soil guidelines, 16 had minor exceedances, 14 were identified as a low priority, 17 as a medium priority and five as a high priority.

Dave Domke, the manager of the city’s parks and open spaces, told CTV News the section of Mission Park and the Weston Memorial hockey rink were identified as the greatest concern among the five high-priority areas and require active remediation.

The public service is recommending the city spend $450,000 for soil remediation work at the eastern corner of Mission Park, and the hockey rink at the Weston Memorial Community Centre. (Source: CTV News Winnipeg)

“I think it’s important to get done, and we want to try to expedite a decision on this,” Domke said.

To address the risk, Domke said 75 mm of topsoil in the section of Mission Park has to be removed and replaced. At the Weston Memorial Community Centre rink, the public service is recommending the city remove and replace the asphalt.

The public service is asking for these two projects, which are expected to cost the city $450,000, to be considered in the 2023 budget process.

“It’s important to remember that overall the health risk is low from lead,” Domke said, adding the health risk comes when contaminated soil is inhaled as dust or swallowed when you don’t wash garden vegetables or your hands before eating.

When the contaminated soil is covered with sod, concrete or asphalt, it reduces the exposure. In the winter, the city says there is little to no exposure because the ground is frozen and covered in snow.

The eastern corner of Mission Park, pictured here on Nov. 22, 2022, has been temporarily closed due to elevated levels of lead found in the soil. (Source: Glenn Pismenny/CTV News Winnipeg)

Both areas are currently shut down. Temporary fences and signs have been put up around the eastern corner of Mission Park, and the hockey rink has been locked with signs prohibiting entry.

Domke said if the projects are not approved in the budget, then the section of Mission Park will be permanently closed to the public, and the rink locked during summer months.

“Interestingly enough, the province says that if ice goes on top of the hockey rink area, that’s enough protection for lead to be kept in the ground,” Domke said.

As for the other priority sites, Domke said the city will be monitoring them annually.

“Sometimes areas get worn in turf and it becomes dead, and then the dust from that area can circulate,” he said. “So the idea is to keep it in good, good condition and good turf condition, and thereby reducing the opportunity for any lead to be dispersed into the community.”

According to the province, the risk in most of the parks can be mitigated by keeping good grass cover, which acts as a barrier for younger children.

The city’s community services committee is set to vote on this early next week. 

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