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Lead levels in soil force students from school's sports field
Crews from the Winnipeg School Division spent Thursday afternoon sealing up gaps in the fence and blocking off access to Weston School's sports field. This after revelations of lead contamination, kept under wraps for a decade.
Joel Sontag lives across the street with his two-year-old son and four-year-old daughter.
"My kids wouldn't have been playing over there if there was any kind of health risk," said Sontag.
A study, just released by the Pallister government, shows 19 soil samples taken from the school contained lead levels above accepted guidelines. As a precautionary move, the division is banning access to the field for staff and students. It has met with provincial officials on what to do next and says following a site inspection Friday the field could be reopened.
"I have two little kids, that is a big concern for me,” said Sontag.
Higher than accepted lead levels were also found in soil samples in other city playgrounds and residential boulevards in nearby neighbourhoods.
The Pallister government is retesting the areas to determine how to proceed, hoping for results in December.
"We are attaching a high degree of urgency to the retesting of soil at these sites," said Health Minister Cameron Friesen.
The school division says it has been assured by the province that the health risks are low.
The study dates back to 2007. The NDP government of the day never released the findings. A 2008 draft news release was even crafted but never made public.
The release stated:
"Because children and pregnant women are particularly sensitive to the effects of lead, one should be aware of all sources of lead exposure."
Current Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew says he can't explain why the information was never released.
"I've looked into this a little bit but really have no insight into what was going on at the time," said Kinew.
Joel Sontag would like to know why.
"That's unreal, like to do that test 11 years ago and they're just going to do something now, that's ridiculous," said Sontag.