County council assured contaminated site in Faust is safe

Richard Froese
For the Lakeside Leader

Future use of a contaminated former wood-treatment 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 said. “We’ll let you know what we decide in the near future.”

County council was assured the site is clean and safe.

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

Alberta Osmose Wood Preservers Ltd. operated a plant from 1961-1969.
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.

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

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

Test samples show that contamination appears to be under control, he said.
Water in Lesser Slave Lake is also under the watchful eye of AEP, hydrogeologist Rafael Jerez told council.

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

Most contamination was in the north part of the Osmose site, closest to the lake, he noted.

Groundwater in the area flows towards the lake.

Jerez said 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 on April 8.

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

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

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