Toxic sawdust a concern at QC playground

  • Feb. 22, 2012 12:00 p.m.

By Karyn Prest–Queen Charlotte’s Chief Administrative Officer Bill Beamish reassured concerned community members Monday night that clean-up of toxic sawdust on the community hall playground was underway.The issue came up after some community members contacted council about “piles of sawdust on the grass areas and in the gravel” beside the work site where the AMS crew was cutting preserved landscape ties behind the community hall. Ben Greenough, Superintendent of Public Works, was asked to visit the site and determine what work was being done, and what protections were in place.According to an email from Mr. Beamish, everything followed safety guidelines with “all saw cuts being bagged for disposal, sawdust contained to the concrete area and a commitment that the sawdust would be swept and bagged when the work was completed”.Mr. Greenough suggested a more appropriate site would be the parking area in front of the service doors, and this was expected to be changed for work on Monday. Cutting beside the playground took place for approximately 1 1/2 hours before it was stopped. Aaron Goetzinger of AMS met with Mr. Beamish and Mr. Greenough and agreed to put a tarp on the ground to catch sawdust and any sawdust on the site would be swept up and disposed appropriately.Mr. Beamish inspected the area on Saturday and although he saw sawdust on the basketball court area, there was no sign of sawdust on the lawn or gravel. Due to the wet weather, the sawdust was “still damp and clumped and was not moving at all.” He also noted the presence of plastic sheets on the ground to contain the sawdust and the use of landscape ties on at least two sides around the perimeter to prevent any movement of sawdust with drainage off of the asphalt.Rick McDiarmid, Environmental Consultant on the Seawalk project, will continue to monitor work in the area and will work with AMS to ensure the site is properly swept and cleaned up. The long-term effects will not be known until some testing is done of the soil, but the play area will be cleaned up immediately and fresh sand will be added. Mr. McDiarmid will determine how much and where the sand needs to be placed.Community members are still concerned, however, because the “toxicity of (the) sawdust is much more of a concern because (the chemicals) become airborne and are water soluble”. Also, “toxicity guidelines are made for adults handling them, not children.” They urged council to place signs warning of contamination so that parents are aware of possible risks to children playing there. “Small children are much more vulnerable because of their small body size. They’re still developing.”Mayor Carol Kulesha said “as soon as we were notified, it was acted upon.” She said, “the safety of the children are of prime concern for us.” But as it’s the only designated playground for children in the area, parents will have to use their own discretion when using it for now. Mr. Beamish met with AMS Tuesday morning to discuss further clean-up and soil removal by the basketball court.

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