November 5, 2001

Draft order sets new nickel limit for Port Colborne soil cleanup

A draft order for remedial work issued to Inco last week by the Ontario Ministry of Environment will require the company to clean up 25 properties in the Rodney St area of Port Colborne where nickel levels in soil are over 8,000 parts per million (ppm). The company will also have to conduct further soil sampling and clean up any other Port Colborne properties found to have soil-nickel levels over 8,000 ppm.

The order, issued at the same time as the MOE released a revised health risk assessment study for Port Colborne, reflects a new, lower intervention level for nickel in soil. The initial health risk assessment, released in March, set a level of 10,000 ppm; this has been lowered to 8,000 ppm. Both the draft order and the new study have been posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights registry for a 30-day comment period ending November 29. The EBR posting provides links to the study and other relevant information. (Access through www.ene.gov.on.ca, registry number IA01E0430.)

The Ministry says the new intervention limit proposed in the revised report is based on different, more advanced testing carried out since March. It incorporates the results of soil sampling done in May, plus air monitoring data collected over the summer. Work on the report by MOE specialists was supplemented by a peer review panel of international experts in environmental risk assessment and human toxicology. The panel endorsed the Ministry's process and methodology and reached a consensus on data and parameters used to set the nickel in soil intervention level.

The new intervention level is considered adequate to protect pre-school-age children from adverse health effects of nickel in soil. The new report has concluded that soil-nickel levels in the community are unlikely to pose any immediate or longer-term health risk to other age groups.

The report also proposes an intervention level of 1,000 ppm for lead in soil in areas covered by sod or grass, either on residential properties or public areas where children may play. A 400 ppm intervention level for lead in soil in bare soil areas has been proposed as well. The lead levels found in Port Colborne are not attributed to Inco's past operations or facilities, but are considered the result of years of using lead-based paints, leaded gasoline and lead-acid batteries.

As part of the revised assessment, the Ministry investigated soil levels of arsenic, antimony, beryllium, cadmium, copper and cobalt, and concluded that no action is required on these substances.

The Ministry is holding two open houses in Port Colborne this week to discuss the report and draft order. More information is available from Rick Day of the MOE, 905/521-7664.

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