The City’s Environmental Remediation Unit recently found shallow soil contamination at Robert F. Legget Park and the Ottawa Children’s Garden at 321 Main St. in Old Ottawa East. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) compounds were detected at concentrations exceeding provincial standards.
Although these contaminants pose a risk to human health, that possibility is based on conservative lifetime exposure limits. Health effects from exposure to PAHs usually arise only in cases of prolonged exposure.
Over the winter, the City will undertake a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) to determine the full extent of the contamination, then develop a plan to implement appropriate risk management measures and/or remediation of the site.
The City and Ottawa Public Health do not consider the current risk to be acute or immediate, and the contaminated soil is unlikely to have a health impact on anyone unless the soil itself was ingested.
- Ottawa Public Health has confirmed that the soil at 321 Main St. poses no immediate risk to residents.
- Eating fruits or vegetables from the garden over a short period of time should not cause any negative health effects.
- When the Ottawa Children’s Garden was established in 2009, the soil underwent testing and was within the acceptable provincial levels. These provincial standards were updated in 2011, and allowed levels for most PAH compounds were decreased.
- Soil samples taken in October 2016 revealed PAH levels exceeding the newer provincial standards.
- The Phase II Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) will collect further information about the soil and determine the full extent of the contamination.
- Based on the results of the Phase II ESA, the City will develop a plan to implement appropriate risk management measures and/or remediation at the property in 2017.
Questions and answers
What are Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons?
PAHs are a group of more than 100 chemicals generated from the incomplete combustion of fuels, waste or other organic substances. The dominant sources of PAHs in the environment are associated with human activity and are commonly found in older urban areas, particularly those used for industrial purposes or manufacturing. PAHs are contained in asphalt, crude oil, coal, ash, coal tar pitch, creosote and vehicle exhaust. They can occur throughout the environment in the air, attached to dust particles, or as solids in soil or sediment.