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High level of chemical near incinerator out of the ordinary

Despite high levels of a chemical being discovered in August soil tests, the results were not repeated in subsequent tests of the area in the fall


Despite elevated levels of a potentially dangerous chemical being found in soil near the incinerator, the region says the results were abnormal and pose no risk to human health.

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

The discovery of increased levels of a hydrocarbon in soil testing downwind of the Durham York Energy Centre last summer has been ruled as “anomalous”.

According to updates posted on the DYEC’s website, soil testing in August 2017 at a downwind location of the centre showed concentrations of benzo(a)pyrene (BaP) at 0.61 micrograms per 100 grams of soil, twice that of standards permitted by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.

Benzo(a)pyrene is the by-product of incomplete combustion of organic matter between the temperatures of 300 and 600 degrees Celsius and is found in coal tar, tobacco smoke, and foods such as grilled meats.

Research has shown exposure to high levels of BaP can affect the nervous system, immune system and, the male reproductive system. It is also carcinogenic and has been linked to some cancer types, especially those that are smoking-related.

The increased levels of BaP in the August results led to re-testing of the site on Oct. 18, 2017.

Officials indicated the soil sampling methodology in October followed that of the original test in August.

The BaP concentration from the October samples was 0.28 micrograms per 100 grams of soil, below the ministry standards.

“The August 2017 benzo(a)pyrene concentration in the soil was interpreted to be anomalous as soil re-sampling that took place in October 2017 did not verify the August 2017 concentration,” Gio Anello, waste management and technical services manager for the Region of Durham told The Express in an email.

Anello added that historical testing dating back to August 2013, before the DYEC was operating, has shown acceptable levels of the compound and the August 2017 levels should not be considered dangerous.

“The benzo(a)pyrene concentration noted within the soil sample collected from the downwind sampling site in August 2017 does not pose an immediate risk to health or the environment…ongoing soil monitoring in the future will continue to assess the long-term concentration trend for benzo(a)pyrene in the soil at the downwind soil sampling site,” the centre’s 2017 soil testing report reads.

The next round of testing is scheduled for August 2020.