A review of testing results of soil samples taken in Boat Harbour, Pictou Co., shows the levels of mercury and most other chemicals are within acceptable limits.
The Clean the Mill Group commissioned testing of the soil and shared a report on the results with government on Nov. 6. Staff at the departments of Health and Wellness and Environment reviewed the report’s findings in relation to recognized guidelines and shared their analysis with the group today, Nov. 28.
“We understand that area residents are concerned about the impact of heavy industry on their environment and their health,” said Dr. Ryan Sommers, medical officer of health for the Pictou County Health Authority. “For the majority of soil samples, the levels of chemicals are below the accepted provincial, national and international guidelines for industrial, residential and agricultural use.”
The Department of Environment and Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment set guidelines and standards for most of the chemicals noted in the Clean the Mill Group report. Those not covered by Canadian guidelines do not exceed limits set by the World Health Organization or the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in the United States.
Two of the seven sample sites indicated levels of arsenic that were marginally higher than the Canadian guideline limits, and three had marginally higher levels of barium. Both chemicals were within Nova Scotia’s Environmental Quality Standards. Potential risks from these amounts would be extremely low.
Because of the geological differences across the country, provincial standards may differ from national guidelines. It is normal to find trace amounts of some chemicals in soils across Nova Scotia, as many of these are found naturally here.
A single salt water sample was collected and analyzed for the Clean the Mill Group as well. For many of the chemicals, there is no guideline limit for marine waters. Many chemicals were not detected in the samples, while others, such as calcium and magnesium, were detected at high levels. Calcium and magnesium are common earth elements and pose no health risks. The Department of Environment has shared the report with Environment Canada.