FAQs

General

I just moved to Trail and have children. What do I need to know?

Trail is a great place to live, work and raise a family. The community developed around one of the largest operating lead/zinc smelters. Because of this, there is lead in the dust (e.g. air and soil). Keeping indoor dust down, covering bare soil in yards and promoting handwashing are some of the best ways to reduce children’s exposure to lead. 

The Trail Area Health & Environment Program offers a variety of supports depending on the family needs, location, and age of children. This includes Healthy Family Healthy Home in-home visits for families with children three and under and expectant parents. There is also an annual voluntary blood lead testing clinic for children. This helps identify where more support is needed and/or potential exposure.

For any questions, text the public health nurse at 250-231-5945 or email programs@thep.ca.

What does it mean to live with metals in soil?

  • For most people, the risks associated with metals in soil are low, particularly where soils are covered by grass or other materials; however, bare soils may increase exposure to metals and contribute to elevated lead levels in children.
  • There are a number of ways residents can minimize their exposure. These include:
    • Covering bare soil areas in your yard by improving lawn areas, mulching gardens or covering exposed areas with landscape fabric and rock;
    • Following good hygiene practices, including washing hands after playing outside and before eating;
    • Taking shoes off at the door, and having floor mats at entryways;
    • Vacuuming, wet dusting and mopping frequently; and
    • Hosing off decks and patios and wiping down outdoor play equipment and furniture.
  • For more information and tips on avoiding exposure to metals, visit us online at www.thep.ca.

What is THEC / THEP?

THEC is the acronym for the Trail Area Health & Environment Committee, a select committee of the City of Trail. THEC is a partnership between government, industry, the City of Trail and community. For more than 30 years, THEC has been working together to reduce exposure to lead and other smelter metals in the community with a focus on families and children.

THEC oversees programs on the ground undertaken by the partners. 

The Trail Area Health & Environment Programs are:

  • Air Quality: smelter emissions reductions, dust control and air monitoring
  • Family Heath: in-home visits, children’s lead testing clinics and support, education
  • Home & Garden: in-home visits, lead safe renovation support, garden and yard soil testing and improvements
  • Property Development: risk management guidelines and support
  • Parks: community greening

How is my local government involved?

The Mayor of Trail chairs the Trail Area Health & Environment Committee, and there is representation on the committee from Warfield, RDKB Areas A and B. All local governments in the Lower Columbia are invited to meetings of the Trail Area Health & Environment Committee.

How can I get more involved?

Community involvement is a long-standing commitment of THEC. There are up to six spaces on the committee available for community members and we are currently seeking additional community representation. Meetings are held five times a year in Trail (or online) and are open to the public. If joining the committee interests you, please send details about yourself and why you would like to be involved to programs@thep.ca.  

In addition, THEC has working groups that provide input into programs and communication which welcome community representation. 

As a community member you are invited to take part in the free programs offered by the Trail Area Health & Environment Program. The program also regularly surveys and consults the community for feedback on work taking place.  Your participation is valued. 

Family Health

What is the Healthy Families Healthy Homes program?

The Healthy Families Healthy Homes Program (HFHH) is an in-home visitation, health promotion program targeting expectant families and families with children aged 0-3 years in Trail, Casino, Oasis, Rivervale, Waneta and Warfield. This is a time when children are more at risk of exposure to lead in their home environment as they are beginning to crawl, explore their world and put objects and hands in their mouths.

Each family receives two visits, one from an Interior Health Public Health RN (the Healthy Families visit) and one from a trained professional at the H&G Program. Visits focus on prevention of lead exposure and strengthening the children’s healthy development through education, awareness and supplies to help parents take action immediately.

What are the concerns about lead?

Most lead enters the body through the mouth via eating, drinking or breathing in dust containing lead. Young children are at a higher risk for lead exposure and its effects because:

  • They often put their hands and objects in their mouths. 
  • They sometimes swallow non-food items. 
  • Their bodies absorb lead at a higher rate. 
  • Their brains are developing quickly. 

There is no known safe level of lead exposure and no known safe blood lead concentration. Lead is most harmful to children younger than age 6 (especially those younger than age 3). Lead exposure can have detrimental effects on early childhood development and children’s future outcomes. A pregnant woman who is exposed to lead can pass it to her baby through the mother’s breast milk. 

Still, there are actions you can take to help reduce your family’s exposure to lead. 

What are the concerns about other metals?

Two other metals emitted from the smelter of potential concern are arsenic and cadmium. Emissions of these metals have dropped dramatically over the past decades, but they are still present in the Trail environment at higher than normal levels.

Long-term exposure to low levels of arsenic can increase the risk for several types of cancers. Long-term exposure to low levels of cadmium can increase the risk of kidney disease and several other conditions including high blood pressure and cancers.

Trail area health statistics have been reviewed by the BC Cancer Agency and Ministry of Health. They have not found evidence of increased rates of disease due to metals in the environment.

Is it safe for my family to live in Trail?

Yes. Trail is a great place to live, work and raise a family. There are lots of positive things happening in Trail and the Trail Area Health & Environment Program (THEP) proactively supports families to have a safe and active lifestyle here. 

Living next door to the smelter has created unique challenges in terms of minimizing exposure to lead in house dust and soil, mainly caused by historical emissions. There have been major air quality improvements and we are actively working on historical emissions (such as in the soil). 

THEP actively supports healthy child development through a variety of programs. This includes our Healthy Family Healthy Homes program which includes two home visits from a nurse and home specialist to share information and provide supports to minimize exposure to metals.

Families with children and expectant families, please call or text the public health nurse with any questions: 250-231-5945.

What can I do to keep my family healthy?

There are many things you can do to help reduce exposure and ingestion of lead by your child. The most effective way is to keep indoor dust down. It’s important to connect (or reconnect) with the public health nurse and home garden representative for a home visit to look more closely at nutrition, diet and the home and yard environment. They will also connect with you community resources and groups that support early childhood development. They can also provide useful supplies to keep dust down in the home environment such as a vacuum (or replacement bags), dust buster kits, hand soap, and links to lead safe renovation supplies.

Families with children under 12 months are offered a free Healthy Family home visit. A Public Health nurse will meet with parents to answer their questions and show simple ways to promote children’s health and wellbeing, and reduce lead exposure. Young children in Trail, Casino, Oasis, Rivervale, Waneta and Warfield are invited to have their blood lead levels tested each year starting from the age of 6 months to 36 months. 

All programs are voluntary.

What should I do if I want to reduce dust in my home?

Damp mop bare floors and damp wipe window sills, furniture, benches, toys, baseboards and other surfaces that children touch in order not to stir up dust.  Dry sweeping is not recommended as it lifts dust into the air only to have some of it settle back down again.  

Areas where food is prepared or eaten, and floors or surfaces where babies or toddlers spend lots of time should always be kept clean.

For carpeted floors, use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter or ducted vacuum system.  These vacuums filter fine dust particles and prevent dust from recirculating in the room. 

Please note housecleaning doesn’t replace the need for good family hygiene and nutrition.  Always wash your hands and children’s hands, especially before eating and after playing outdoors.  Leave outside shoes at the door. Renovate safely, sealing off the area of work. Eat regular meals high in calcium, Vitamin C, and iron.

Sign up online for a Healthy Family Healthy Home visit to learn more. 

What should I do if I want to get my child’s blood lead level tested?

Every year, our program offers free voluntary testing of blood lead for children from the age of 6-36 months living in Trail, Casino, Oasis, Rivervale, Waneta and Warfield. Children up to the age of 5 years old from other Lower Columbia communities are welcome to attend. Clinics are typically held in September with a follow up clinic in February.

Please contact the Interior Health Public Health Nurse for details. 

Call 250-364-6223 or Text 250-231-5945

Is drinking water a source of lead exposure in Trail?

Lead in drinking water is not considered a source of lead exposure in the City of Trail.  The City’s drinking water is tested regularly at its two sources and confirmed to meet all the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality for metals (including lead), chemicals and other potential risks to water quality.  The City’s drinking water is believed to be at low risk of leaching lead from the distribution system. This is supported by water quality monitoring and testing at a number of locations throughout the city’s drinking water system. For more information, contact info@trail.ca

If you have concerns about lead pipes in your home, you can have your water tested.  Click this link for labs in BC approved by the Provincial Health Officer for drinking water. 

HealthLinkBC provides additional information on Lead in Drinking Water including how you can protect yourself and family (https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthlinkbc-files/lead-drinking-water).

Finally, if you don’t know what kind of pipes you have, this is a helpful online tool to test whether you are likely to have lead water pipes: https://apps.npr.org/find-lead-pipes-in-your-home/en/#intro

 Lead Safe Renovation

What should I do if I want to renovate my home?

Please contact the Community Program Office at 1319 Bay Avenue or (250) 368-3256 for information on the Lead Safe Renovation Program supports and information available to you.  

The Lead Safe Renovation Program applies to all pre-1976 homes anywhere in the Lower Columbia.

Resources are also available online under the Lead Safe Renovation program tab.

What should I do if I am a building contractor or professional home renovator?

Check out the Contractor section on this website.  For more information, or to become a Trail Area Lead Safe Contractor, please contact the Community Program Office at 1319 Bay Ave. or (250) 368-3256.

Soil Management Program

What is the Soil Management Program?

  • The soil management program includes soil testing and, in qualifying yards, replacement of soil or improvements to ground cover on a prioritized basis.
  • Given the large number of households in these areas, assessments are prioritized based on the presence of children under 12 within areas that are known to have the highest levels of lead in the soil, such as those neighbourhoods closest to the operation.
  • This program has been in place since 2007 and was expanded in 2019.
  • The program is overseen by the Trail Area Health and Environment Committee, a sub-committee of the City of Trail, with government, community and industry members.
  • Teck is the responsible party for annual Soil Management Plans under the direction of the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change as per the Contaminated Sites Regulation of the Environmental Management Act.

Why is a soil management plan necessary?

  • Metallurgical facilities have been operating in Trail for well over a century. Historical emissions from these facilities have resulted in the addition of metals, including lead, into the soil in the surrounding area. As a result, soil in the Trail area is likely to have metals above natural background levels and regulatory standards.
  • Teck is the responsible party for the Soil Management Plan under the direction of the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy as per the Contaminated Sites Regulation of the Environmental Management Act.
  • Teck is working with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy to develop and seek approval for a long-term soil management plan called a Wide Area Remediation Plan. Once that plan is drafted, a full public consultation will take place prior to approval and implementation. Annual Soil Management Plans are an interim step focused on highest risk properties.
  • The Wide Area Remediation Plan will continue to build on the work we have been doing to address historical soil impacts in Trail and the surrounding area.
  • In recent years, major improvements have been made to lower metal emissions from Teck Trail Operations, resulting in improved air quality. This means that Teck is not adding as many metals such as lead into the soil. We can now focus more on addressing the historical impacts to soil from past emissions.

How do you plan to address lead in the soil?

  • Measures to manage exposure to lead and other metals in the soil may include the replacement of soil in yards and/or gardens in qualifying yards. In other cases, improvements to ground cover, such as planting grass, may be made as an interim measure.
  • Soil testing is the first step. Our programs are voluntary so it is your choice if you would like your soil to be tested.

Is it safe to eat vegetables grown in Trail?

THEP is currently undertaking research to be able to answer this question. Plants can take up lead and other metals from soil. 

To reduce risk, always peel root crops and wash vegetables and fruits from homegrown produce before consuming, amend the soil with nutrients like manure and compost, and wash hands after gardening.

Garden soil in Trail is tested and prioritized for remediation as needed. Sign up online. 

Can you tell me more about your prioritization criteria?

  • Soil testing is offered to all interested households with priority in areas that are known to have the highest lead levels in the soil, such as those closest to the operation. Priority is also given to households that have children under 12.
  • Following soil testing, three criteria are used to determine priorities for soil management: the presence of children under 12 years of age, the presence of ground cover, and lead levels in soil.

How is the presence of children defined?

In the annual Soil Management Plans, priority will be given to properties where children under 12 live, or visit regularly. This would include where children are present two or more days each week for periods of three hours or more, or a total of 60 hours or more each year.

What are the regulatory standards that this plan is based on?

  • Annual Soil Management Plans are interim plans, conducted under the direction of the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change as per the Contaminated Sites Regulation of the Environmental Management Act.
  • Teck is working with the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Strategy to develop and seek approval for a long-term soil management plan, called a Wide Area Remediation Plan. Once that plan is drafted a full public consultation will take place prior to approval and implementation.
  • The Wide Area Remediation Plan will continue to build on the work we have been doing to address historical soil impacts in Trail and the surrounding area.

Why are you looking at a wider area than in the past?

  • The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy has defined an area for a future Wide Area Remediation Plan called the Teck, Trail Environmental Management Area (EMA). An EMA is a specific area that contains specified contaminants from one specific source, covers a larger geographic area and parcels within the site would likely be contaminated with one or more of the specified contaminants. For more information, please see the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Fact Sheet on Wide Area Sites.
  • The EMA is being used as the subject area for the annual Soil Management Plans and includes Trail, Rivervale, Warfield, Montrose, south Castlegar, areas of RDKB Area A and B, areas of RDCK Area J and the edges of Rossland.
  • As would be expected, metal levels in soil are higher closer to the operation, and decline to near natural background concentrations toward periphery areas. As such, properties in those periphery areas may require no action.
  • Given the large number of properties in the area, our immediate focus will continue to be on those properties that are expected to have higher levels of metals in the soil, such as those nearest the smelter.

Does this just apply to residential properties or are playgrounds, daycares and schools also included?

  • Soil assessment and prioritized soil management also applies to playgrounds, daycares and schools.
  • Generally speaking, ground cover is very good in parks and playgrounds. If you notice poor ground cover at parks or playgrounds please contact the City of Trail and/or the THEP Community Program Office.
  • Parks and playgrounds in the wider Trail area are included in the soil assessment testing, and this data is used to identify any work required.

Why are you now focusing on properties with children up to 12 years old?

  • The prioritization of children under 12 allows us to focus on the age group that is the most likely to be exposed to metals in soil. Older children in this age group have a higher tolerance to exposure, while younger children under 6 years of age have lower tolerance to exposure. Our prioritization approach reflects these tolerance levels.
  • It is important to note that our soil management program is just one aspect of the Trail Area Health and Environment Program. Other existing components of the program will continue, including Healthy Homes and Family Health, focusing on families with children up to 3 years old, and Lead Safe Renovation for do-it-yourself renovators.

When did the expanded soil management program begin?

  • Expansion began in 2019 and close to 300 properties had their soil tested and 550 had their ground cover evaluated.
  • In 2019, 102 properties received work including 11 properties receiving yard improvements and 91 yards were fully remediated (compared to 58 properties in 2018).
  • In 2020, a similar number of properties will receive work as compared to 2019.

Who is paying for soil management?

  • There is no cost to the landowner for this work to be undertaken. All soil assessment and improvement work is coordinated and paid for by the Trail Area Health and Environment Program, through funding provided by Teck.
  • The program is overseen by the Trail Area Health and Environment Committee, a sub-committee of the City of Trail, with government, community and industry members.
  • Teck is the responsible party for the Soil Management Program under the direction of the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change as per the Contaminated Sites Regulation of the Environmental Management Act.
  • Teck Metals has invested approximately $5 million toward the soil management program this year alone as part of its continued commitment to healthy homes and gardens in the Trail area.
  • It is expected that these programs will continue for many years to come.

What should I do if I want my garden soil tested?

  • Sign up online to have your soil tested.
  • If you have a vegetable garden, you can also sign up online. Vegetable gardens remain within our priority focus soil testing and remediation.