Samples were collected from a variety of neighbourhoods in Fort McMurray, including the worst-burned neighbourhoods of Abasand, Beacon Hill and Waterways. Other areas include:
- Wood Buffalo
- Grayling Terrace
- Saprae Creek
- urban forest areas
- Gregoire Lake Provincial Park
Testing these samples helped determine:
- the potential risk to public health, worker health and the health of the environment
- how ash and debris can safely be disposed of in landfills
What we found
What we found in the ash is typical for house fires that contain manmade items such as vehicle tires and home building materials.
Abasand, Beacon Hill and Waterways
As anticipated testing of ash in these neighbourhoods has shown levels of dioxins and furans, metals, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons are higher than public health protection criteria determined by Alberta Health. In contrast, none of the forest samples exceeded these guidelines. Asbestos was not found in any of the samples.
It is due to the extremely high volume of ash and debris that residents of Abasand, Beacon Hill and Waterways are unable to return home. To further minimize the risk of ash movement within these areas, or into other neighbourhoods, the municipality has been spraying the ash and debris in these neighbourhoods with a tackifier.
Ash seen in these neighbourhoods has a similar chemical composition to ash in parts of Fort McMurray more heavily damaged by the fire. However, there is a lower concentration of contaminants as there were a smaller number of structures destroyed. The level of risk from the contaminants is related to the volume of ash and level of damage in the neighbourhoods.
Mobile air quality monitoring has found no evidence that contaminants have migrated to homes in these neighbourhoods from the most affected areas. As in Abasand, Beacon Hill and Waterways, the municipality sprayed the ash and debris from structures damaged in these neighbourhoods with tackifier to minimize ash movement if disturbed by wind or clean-up activities.
For homes facing areas where structures have been destroyed by fire, placards were placed on the front doors. Residents with pink placards at their homes are encouraged to call the PULSE line at 780-743-7000 to arrange a home inspection by Alberta Health Services.