The government has released comprehensive surface and sub-surface soil data, along with a human health risk assessment of soil contamination on and around the former Domtar wood-treatment facility in northeast Edmonton.
The surface and sub-surface testing conducted by the province during 2017-18 involved more than 1,039 sample locations with 1,457 specimens analyzed. Results indicate 183 samples have levels of contamination that exceed human health guidelines for dioxins and furans. Of these, 96 per cent are located in fenced-off areas. A number of other contaminants of concern for human health are identified in these reports. Remediation of those locations remains the responsibility of the companies previously ordered by Alberta Environment and Parks to clean up the site.
Protective measures put in place last year, such as fencing and dust control, are important to protect residents. These measures will continue, and remediation of areas of particular concern highlighted by the sampling reports will begin when ground conditions improve later this spring.
“Our highest priority is the health and safety of residents, and we will continue to work towards minimizing any potential health risks to local residents. While these reports show that there are hazards in the areas, these risks are being addressed through the protective measures already in place until remediation of the soil is undertaken.”
“Alberta Health Services continues to work closely with the Alberta government on efforts to protect the public. We appreciate that this has been a stressful time for residents in the area and we thank them for their patience and understanding while we continue to gather further information about the health risks.”
Alberta Health has made a preliminary comparison of the rates of cancer, miscarriages and birth defects in the surrounding neighbourhoods. This initial analysis found no difference between rates in the area near the former Domtar site compared with other parts of the province, with the exception of three types of cancer.
Among people who had lived in the area for 10 or more years, there were:
- 34 cases of breast cancer in women (16 to 31 cases would have been expected)
- 14 cases of endometrial cancer in women (three to nine cases would have been expected)
- 22 cases of lung cancer in men (six to 14 cases would have been expected)
No differences in any childhood cancers were found compared with other parts of the province.
This data on its own does not indicate why there are higher rates for these three types of cancer in the area. Many factors could contribute to an increased risk of cancer, including but not limited to medical history, medication use and tobacco use. Alberta Health will, therefore, be working immediately with federal experts to conduct a field epidemiology investigation to try and identify what population health factors might have contributed to higher rates of these three cancers.
As a precautionary measure, women who have lived in the area for 10 or more years should talk to their doctors about the risks and benefits of starting breast cancer screening at the age of 40. This is a precaution until the results of the field epidemiology study are available.
The soil sampling report from the former wood-processing site (called Parcel Y) is being finalized and is expected to be released later in March.
Exposure to soil contaminants is limited by fencing and dust control measures. Residents continue to be advised to stay out of restricted areas.
Remediation of areas of specific concern will begin once ground conditions improve in the spring.
For individual health concerns or to discuss early breast cancer screening, residents are encouraged to contact their family doctor. Those who do not have a family doctor can call Health Link (811) to find doctors in the area accepting new patients.