underground, at the site of the new Virginia Park Elementary School. The issue
needs to be exposed to the public, and better understood by everyone, before
construction continues; that is if the new school should be built on this site at all.
This Post is intended to “kick-start” that overdue conversation and release the, until now, secret Report.
document entitled “DRAFT FINAL REPORT ON
SUPERVISION OF CONTAMINATED SOIL REMOVAL DURING SITE PREPARATION WORK”, New
Virginia Park Elementary School Site, St. John’s, NL.
already been removed from the area where the structure is located. But the
Report confirms that heavy metals and other dangerous metals are still
present in the soil, at least along the north and northeast boundary of the site. The area
of contamination remains undefined. The contaminants have the potential to
threaten human health.
Environmental Consultancy, (note: it is a large file 52,405KB. It contains a 3 page Executive Summary at the start.) The entire Report can be accessed here. It was obtained by the Uncle Gnarley Blog from a
|Cover – Pinchin LeBlanc Report|
The Report, as stated, is dated April 2015. That is approximately
nine months ago. More than adequate time has elapsed for the public to have
been informed, and for additional studies to have been conducted.
never intended that the public might be permitted to parse its contents.
Tuesday, January 12, 2016. This is further evidence the document was never destined for the public domain.
I suggest no Tender should be awarded until all the facts surrounding the contamination issues have been fully assessed.
his desire to ‘Restore Openness, Transparency, and Accountability” to the Government, he will instruct the Ministers of Transportation and Works (TW) and
Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD), and the Minister of Environment and Conservation, to begin the consultation
process right away.
chemistry, such a hurdle is not a reason for “cover-up”; it merely heightens
the need for candor.
metalloid that is noted for its potential toxicity, especially in environmental
contexts. The term has particular application to cadmium, mercury, lead and
arsenic, all of which appear in the World Health Organisation’s list of 10
chemicals of major public concern.
such questions? Surely, no stone was left unturned in the original assessment
of the property’s safety and suitability?
excerpts are verbatim the Pinchin Leblanc Report’s Executive Summary:
northeast wall of the excavation (adjacent the Site boundary) exceed the CSQGs for residential and commercial land
use; (Editor’s Note: CSQG – Canadian Soil Quality
northwest portion of the excavation exceeds the commercial CSQGs;
TCE in four soil samples (includes a duplicate sample) collected from the north
wall of the excavation and benzene in a duplicate soil sample collected from
the northeast wall of the excavation. Benzene was not detected in the original
sample. This variance is likely related to the heterogeneity of the sample
(i.e. collected from the debris layer).”
lecture but the importance of the issue is compelling enough not paraphrase, but to quote the Pinchin Leblanc Report.
point out that contamination on the school site has been tested using
commercial standards. Those are more lenient than the contamination standards (often
referred to as “exceedences”) used for residential areas.
Part 5.4.4 describes nine soil samples taken in this area. Part 184.108.40.206 states
that the results did not exceed commercial land use CSQG but does not indicate
if the results exceed the residential limits.
residential criteria due to the presence of residential properties located
immediately to the north of the Site.
residential and commercial land use CSQGs including antimony, arsenic, barium,
chromium, copper, lead, nickel, tin and/or zinc in five of the final excavation
boundary soil samples (BS21, BS25, BS56 & BS69). These sample locations
were not removed during the excavation work and are situated along the north
and northeast wall of the excavation.”
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). The Report does not make clear if they
have to be removed.
ordinary room temperature and are potentially dangerous to human health. Click the Link above for more details.
recommended that a Risk Management Plan and Safe Work Procedure for on-Site
workers be developed to limit exposure to on-Site personnel (i.e. construction
workers). Remaining metals in soil at the north and northwest (“northeast” was the
direction likely intended by the drafter) portion of the Site do not pose a
risk to human health or environmental health provided that the operative
exposure pathway (i.e. dermal contact) remains incomplete by maintaining
suitable cover.” (Editor’s Note:
this line should be understood to mean workers should “suit up” before
coming in contact with the material. Underline added.)
Assessment (QRA) for the site to further assess the TCE and benzene exceedances
identified in the soil. The critical exposure pathway, in this case, is the
volatilization of these COCs to indoor air. Depending on the final results of
the QRA, engineering controls such as soil venting or the installation of a
sub-slap vapour extraction system may be needed to mitigate the risk to
building occupants. (Editor’s Note: though
remediation work was conducted below the new foundation, a sub-slap vapour
extraction system has still been designed into the plans for the new school.)
impacts identified in soil have not been fully delineated towards the
residential properties located north of the Site. Further delineation is
typically required in this case. However, since the Site and surrounding
properties were reportedly used as a military landfill, it is unclear who would
be required to complete the work. It is recommended that the Newfoundland
Department of Environment and Conservation be advised of the results to
determine a course of action.
trichloroethylene exposure to be associated with several types of cancers in
humans, especially kidney, liver, cervix, and lymphatic system….”
|New Virginia Park Elementary School|
As the third recommendation
states, the area was a military landfill; that is to say it was a dump site for the American base at Pleasantville. While,
possibly, residential and school construction went ahead at a time when there
was a lot less knowledge of the environmental impacts of heavy metals and VOCs,
we can no longer make that case.
site, their potential harmful implications are sufficient to affirm the issue
should not be left to the secrecy of a handful of bureaucrats.
dump ought to have stayed ‘green space’ or that, based upon environmental
assessments conducted prior to the start of the new school, a decision ought to
have been taken to relocate the dump in its entirety. (One confidential source suggests
that approach might have been far less costly than the piecemeal way it is
being dealt with now.)
of TW ignores those issues, it will not just earn the contempt of
the public; the government will have set itself up, again, for very large additional
costs. It will have learned nothing from the last financial debacle which
occurred on this very site.
extent of the area requiring remediation is unknown. The volume of contaminated
materials and the boundaries of the old dump are not fully understood,
soil testing and analysis beyond the school boundaries.
Conservation and TW have a public duty to commence additional studies to
delineate the full area of the old dump site.
venting”. Parents should still be told
why a sub slab ventilation system, which has been designed into the foundation
of the new school, is actually necessary, given the remediation work that has
been conducted below the foundation. (It is not as if schools, and most government buildings, have a history of diligent maintenance practices, either. The system proposed is not a passive, or maintenance-free system.)
continued work on the new Virginia Park Elementary School demands an open and
honest sharing of information.
Education and Early Childhood Development has an obligation to ensure that the
school site contains zero doubts as to whether it is “fit for purpose”.
have been sitting on this Report, for nine months, is not apparent.
involving the TW Department, the Department of Education, and NLESD.
“cover-up” of the Roncalli concrete wall collapse and the “cover-up” of the structural deficiencies at Waterford Valley High School, too, on which more information is
the foundation, structural steel, and removal of contaminated soil). But the
Government received a bill for $7.8 million – which, for reasons undisclosed got negotiated down to $4.8 million. (Perhaps the new Minister of
TW will also be able to explain how the other $3 million was paid.)
getting, I wonder?
It will be interesting to know if this issue was found in the briefing notes of the three Ministries where this Report is being discussed.
about transparency, it will advise those officials of the commitments contained in the Premier’s mandate letters. In particular, the Ministers of TW and Education will inform them the time for the
hand-wringing is over!