School trustee questions province's response to lead levels in soil on school grounds
Published Tuesday, January 14, 2020 7:48PM CST
WINNIPEG -- A school trustee is wondering why it's taking the provincial government so long to clean up an area on Weston School grounds, which have high levels of lead in the soil.
The problem first came to light in 2018 when the Pallister government released a studying showing 19 soil samples taken from the school contained lead levels above accepted guidelines.
Since that time a fence has been put up around the playground whenever there isn't snow on the ground.
The original studying came in 2007, but it was never released by the then NDP government.
Jennifer Chen, the trustee for Winnipeg School Division Ward 6, raised the question of income at a board meeting Monday.
“If there was lead contamination in the soil in a school in a more affluent community, would it have taken two years to remove the fence and remove the lead from the school,” said Chen, questioning if class discrimination played a role.
She said after raising her questions at the school board meeting, she’s received emails from people who live in the Weston area who share her concern.
“They’re asking, why is this taking so long? And the children at Weston School, why they cannot play in the field just as other children at other schools.”
Chen is calling on the provincial government to release a third-party report on managing lead in soil.
In response, the province said it’s reviewing the report and it will be made public this month.
It also said it was disappointing to see a school trustee “politicise a public health issue that was ignored for years by the former NDP government.”
In a statement, a government spokesperson said they’ve been transparent on the issue of lead contamination of soil.
“…Which is why we commissioned the third-party report with a focus on the potential risk to human health and how to identify and manage areas with elevated lead concentrations in soil. We are committed to listening to the advice of scientists and experts in the field.”
A spokesperson for the Winnipeg School Division said it won't know what to do until the government tells them how to deal with the issue.
"This could involve anything from having to completely re-turf the field to something as simple as keeping it closed for a while until the lead levels are reduced, but we don't know," said Radean Carter, who is a senior information officer with the Winnipeg School Division.
-with files from CTV's Devon McKendrick