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Residents worried about possible health risks connected to work on condo conversion in The Ward

The developer and Ministry of the Environment says proper procedures and protocols are being followed

Several residents of The Ward are concerned about potential health risks connected to the removal of paint from the a former factory being converted into condos.

Both the developer and the Ministry of the Environment say proper procedures and protocols are being followed.

The concerns come from a paint removal project at the former factory on the corner of Alice and Huron streets. Workers have been scraping and grinding the paint off the exterior of the building.

Residents say they have been finding chunks of paint they fear may contain lead on their property. They also worry about dust particles.

Jody Larsen, a resident in the area since 1996, said she has no concerns with the building being redeveloped into an 86-unit condominium complex and in fact supports it. Her problem is with the paint removal.

“My concern is that it is a very old building. I think it was 1919 that it was built and had many layers of paint on it since then. And the paint is now being removed, which it does have to be removed, I don't question that at all, but they are grinding it off which takes it to dust like particles which blows in the wind,” said Larsen. 

“I'm sure because it's such an old building that there would be lead in the dust, and they can use scrims which are expensive because it's an added thing that they would have to do, but I really think it's irresponsible to be putting this paint dust in the air.”

Nobody has confirmed the paint actually contains any lead and when asked, the Ministry of the Environment says proper procedures are being followed.

"All aspects of construction falls strictly under provincial or municipal guidelines which include working with all authorities that have jurisdiction," said Kelly Postma, a representative of Alice Block, the owner of the building.

Ministry of the Environment spokesperson Jackie Lamport said via email that the current process for removing paint is to scrape the large flaking pieces off manually with a scraper, followed by hand grinding the paint off the concrete pillars. 

She said the hand grinder is attached to a HEPA filter vacuum system and water is being used to reduce dust. She also stated that at the time of her visit, no dust was observed moving off-site and the containment measures appeared to be adequately containing the paint and concrete dust.

"The construction company has also been visited by MOL and a third party consulting firm on several occasions. I understand no concerns were identified on any of these visits. I have issued instructions to the company to keep current containment measures in place," said Lamport. 

But local resident Tyler Aero, who lives across the street from the building, says the dust has been flying right on his property for a couple of weeks now.  

“A hundred per cent dust and bigger pieces like chips,” said Aero.

“I'm concerned because it's not just about my family's property. How many kids walked by while lead paint was flying everywhere? Or parents pushing young ones in strollers? Never mind the fact that my front gardens were filled with dust and chips from the paint.”

Mike Deane said this whole issue is particularly concerning because he has two young children.

“Lead in your system doesn't really leave and it builds up cumulatively over time and really affects brain development. I know there's already a lot of lead in the soil in the ward,” Deane said.

He said while he initially was relieved that the ministry suggested dust particles are not entering the air, residents in the area have large chunks sitting on their property. 

“I went by yesterday (Thursday) I was just biking by and I saw they were on the south side of the building. So they were grinding, and they did have HVAC there, but it’s not like an enclosed system where it's over the grinder. It just hopefully pulls in what's there so like there's still dust that goes into the air," he said.


Anam Khan

About the Author: Anam Khan

Anam Khan is a journalist who covers numerous beats in Guelph and Wellington County that include politics, crime, features, environment and social justice
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