Soil testing conducted in Buchans in the fall of 2009 by Conestoga Rovers and Associates (CRA), on behalf of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, identified elevated levels of heavy metals in some of the samples. Further testing and a Human Health Risk Assessment completed in early 2010 concluded that some residential areas had soil lead levels that may pose unacceptable risks to human health.
The Provincial Government held two public meetings in Buchans on this issue and the Central Health Authority made blood lead testing available for any concerned residents. Based on the testing results, medical experts have determined there isn't any evidence of immediate health concerns resulting from lead exposure. However, there were still several continuous sources of lead and other heavy metals from exposed tailings near the town that had to be addressed.
In 2010, the Provincial Government committed $9 million for projects to address the two main source areas that continued to contribute to the lead in soil levels in Buchans. These projects included:
This work was completed in 2011.
The photos below depict the Tailing Spill Area before and after remediation.
Once the source areas were addressed the second phase of work included the remediation of residential and public properties to mitigate residual lead impacts and reduce the risk of exposure to lead tailings impacted soil.
This work was carried out between 2011 and 2014, and included remediation and re-establishment of public areas including the softball field, tennis court area, hospital grounds, miners memorial, as well as the construction of a new RV park on top of the remediated soil disposal area. Remediation was also carried out on over 200 residential properties.
Remediated and reconstructed softball field
RV Park constructed on the soil disposal area cap
Remediation at a residential property
Fully remediated residential properties
All work was completed in 2014 and the total cost of the project was $11 million, well below the initial cost estimate of $15 million. The environmental site professionals at CRA have confirmed that the remediation project was successful in its goal to reduce the overall exposure to lead tailings impacted soil well below the acceptable risk based levels.
This project was a shining example of how the Provincial Government, the Buchans Town Council, and affected residents worked together to implement a remediation project designed to manage the environmental health and safety risks left behind by the former owner and operator of this mine site.
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