‘No new sources of contamination’

An aerial photo shows the site of the former Alberta Osmose Wood Preservers Ltd. in Faust where land has been cleaned from contamination. The photo also shows proposed trails.

Old Faust osmose site clean and safe, says Alberta Environment & Parks

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Future use of a contaminated former osmose site in Faust is under study as the site has been cleaned up.

Big Lakes County council discussed potential plans for trails with Alberta Environment and Parks officials at its regular meeting May 13.

“We understand what we need to do,” Reeve Richard Simard says.

“We’ll let you know what we decide in the near future.”

Council was assured the site is clean and safe.

Contaminated areas have been soil-capped with clay, says Norbert Raffael, AEP northern district resources manager.

“They are safe to walk on,” Raffael says.

“In an overabundance of caution, we want people to stay away from the caps.”

Alberta Osmose Wood Preservers Ltd. operated a plant from 1961-69. The business operated a wood-treating and wood-preserving site before a fire and explosion closed the operation.

Several products known to cause cancer were used to treat the wood.

The 1969 fire was the main cause of contaminants that spread in the vicinity. Contaminants included arsenic, dioxins, chromium and PCPs.

Earlier in 2020, the county applied for a recreation lease with AEP to construct a trail system on the site.

Moving forward, AEP requires that any trails be built above ground to separate people and the ground.

The day-use site would prohibit camping, a playground, buildings and campfires.

Raffael says the land is currently safe of any contaminants.

“The risk-management plan limits any exposure,” Raffael says.

“There is potential that a cap can be eroded over time and we will continue to monitor the caps.”

He assured council of other measures to protect the area.

“We will continue to monitor soil and groundwater,” Raffael says.

“We will provide all updates to the community when new information becomes available.”

Samples of testing shows that contamination appears to be under control, he says.

“There are no new sources of contamination,” Raffael says.

“Currently, contaminants are relatively invisible.

“Contamination has not been mobilizing due to intermittent flooding.

“Contamination is moving away from residential land.”

Water in Lesser Slave Lake is also under the watchful eye of AEP, hydrogeologist Rafael Jerez says.

“We want to make sure we don’t get any contaminants into the lake,” Jerez says.

Most contamination was in the north part of the osmose site, closest to the lake, he notes.

Groundwater in the area flows towards the lake, he says.

Jerez says AEP will regularly monitor groundwater and the lake for the next three to four years.

Big Lakes council continues to ponder the possibility of a lease.

Council particularly questions the costs connected to the application presented at the regular council meeting April 8.

An AEP official says the county may request that a historic resource impact assessment be waived.

A cost of $8,500 to $11,000 was presented in the April 8 agenda by Pat Olansky, director of planning and development.

A wildlife survey of the immediate area is not required, AEP says.

Olansky gave council a cost of $4,000 April 8.

Big Lakes would still be required to consult First Nations and Metis settlements in the application process, AEP says.

Olansky did not state a figure for the cost to consult eight Indigenous communities before a lease would be considered, approved.

As part of the application process, Big Lakes would be required to consult East Prairie Metis Settlement, Gift Lake Metis Settlement, Peavine Metis Settlement, Driftpile Cree Nation Kapawe’no First Nation, Sucker Creek First Nation, Swan River First Nation and Sawridge First Nation.

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