January 10, 2005

Monitoring to continue for pesticides in Sask community water supplies

Saskatchewan Environment is working with six communities which were recently found to have very low levels of pesticides in their municipal raw water reservoirs and treated drinking water.The communities include Assiniboia, Avonlea, Birch Hills, Ceylon, Fleming and Laird.

The department will be providing the communities with technical treatment information and educational material to promote the protection of water sources and ensure proper water treatment. Carbon filtration and other technologies will be used to reduce or eliminate pesticides from water supplies. In addition, the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority is developing a comprehensive watershed monitoring system which will include regular monitoring for herbicide residue.

The minute levels of pesticides, mainly herbicides, were detected in an Environment Canada study of 15 prairie communities, carried out from May 2003 to April 2004 and in July 2004. Health Canada has advised the communities that the detected levels do not pose a health hazard, as the results reflect new testing technologies capable of detecting components at extremely low levels.

"Finding the trace levels of herbicides are not considered a health risk because all the levels are significantly lower than the national drinking water quality guidelines," said Sam Ferris, Saskatchewan Environment's drinking water quality director.

Further information is available from Sam Ferris, 306/787-6193.

Meanwhile, in the northeastern section of Prince Albert, results of environmental testing in a residential area of the city's Riverview subdivision has indicated the presence of creosote contamination on a few properties. Health risks from this contamination, however, are considered to be minimal.

"A health risk analysis shows that the levels of contamination do not pose a significant risk and that human health effects are unlikely," said Dr Leo Lanoie, Prince Albert Parkland Health regional medical health officer. "Research demonstrates that problems can occur due to long-term occupational exposure, or occupational exposure to large amounts of creosote."

The recent analysis comes from the results of drilling done late in the fall of 2004. While earlier testing had shown some creosote at depths of between five and six metres, the more recent testing showed some contamination at levels of about 2.3 metres.

"While there are no significant health concerns, we do want to deal immediately with the shallower-depth creosote," said Joe Muldoon, Saskatchewan Environment's executive director of environmental protection. "We will be working together with those most affected and those responsible for the pollution as we work to address this issue."

The creosote came from former wood treatment facilities operated by Domtar and by Saskatchewan Forest Products in the area between about 1920 and 1975. The companies used their facilities to treat railway ties and telephone poles with creosote and other wood preservatives such as pentachlorophenol.

Extensive cleanup work has been done on both sites and on adjacent properties since 1994. More than 120,000 cubic metres of soil have been removed from the two areas and have either been treated or are awaiting treatment at the city's bioreactor. Saskatchewan Environment and the city of Prince Albert have spent more than $1 million, through the province's Centenary Fund, on remediation and monitoring of the sites. Open houses, news conferences and meetings with residents have been held during the past few months to keep local people informed of the testing and the findings.

More information is available on Saskatchewan Environment's Web site, www.se.gov.sk.ca, or from Todd Swenson, 306/953-3477.

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