St. Boniface under Microscope

By Santin, Aldo | Winnipeg Free Press, August 22, 2017 | Go to article overview

St. Boniface under Microscope


Santin, Aldo, Winnipeg Free Press


The newly appointed minister of sustainable development said department staff will “expedite” its assessment of soil samples taken from a south St. Boniface neighbourhood, which a University of Manitoba expert said contained elevated levels of lead, zinc and copper.

Rochelle Squires, who was appointed in a cabinet shuffle late last week, said her department only received a copy of the full report on the soil analysis Monday afternoon, adding any decision to alert the public over potential health concerns would be made after the data has been fully analyzed.

“Now that we have the full report, which just arrived in the department this afternoon, it is going to be expedited,” Squires said in an interview Monday with the Free Press.

“We’re working with the department of health and looking at the first steps to assess the level of risk based on evidence in the report and then we’ll be dialoguing with the community in terms of what ought to be done… based on the evidence and collaboration with the department of health.”

Squires was responding to the Free Press report last week, which quoted U of M professor Shirley Thompson advising south St. Boniface residents against eating vegetables grown in their gardens because of the results of soil samples that found elevated levels of lead, zinc and copper in three sites in a portion of that area, including a neighbourhood playground and a location adjacent to an auto parts recycling operation.

Squires said the health of south St. Boniface residents is “of the utmost concern” to the provincial government, but she is not raising any public alarm at this time and is waiting for her department to review the data presented by Thompson before deciding what action, if any, should be taken.

Squires said that, while she was not criticizing Thompson for expressing her concerns as a result of the soil analysis, Squires said she found it “disconcerting” that Thompson and the residents went public with their concerns after they had agreed to wait for the department to review the data before making any public comments.

“It was somewhat disconcerting to see the level of alarm being raised publicly,” Squires said.

“We had agreed to wait to see the full results of the report before raising significant alarm bells, if necessary. …

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