EDMONTON – An acrid smell at Gold Bar Park has been generating concerns for people who live in the area and now, a regular visitor to the park, says he has proof the green space harbours what could be dangerously high lives of a certain chemical compound.
Michelle Ware grew up in the Gold Bar area, and lives directly behind the Gold Bar Wastewater Treatment Plant.
“When people come to visit they say, ‘oh yeah, it smells like Michelle’s place’,” Ware said.
Typically, it’s just the smell of human waste but there’s another that’s far more pungent.
“The rotten egg smell I don’t smell as often,” she said. Ware also noted that the smell, which would indicate hydrogen sulphide gas (H2S) in the area, can be obnoxiously strong at times.
“It could be affecting our children, these are things that none of us really know,” Ware continued.
Dave Bennett, an avid cross-country skier, also wondered if chronic low dose exposure to H2S was safe.
He first looked to air quality testing done by Alberta Environment, but as a professor of neuroscience, he then decided to test the air for himself.
“The hydrogen sulphide levels were above the regulated standard of 10 parts per billion (PPB). And often on smelly days, they were more like 25 PPB,” Bennett told Global News.
Bennett brought his concerns to the board of directors at the Edmonton Nordic Ski Club , the organization his children often train with at Gold Bar Park. That group then asked Alberta Health Services for consultation with respect to H2S safety.
“The levels that we’re seeing would not be a concern for health,” said Dr. Chis Sikora, a medical officer of health for AHS.
“They’re 1,000 to 2,000 times lower than what would be expected to cause an immediate health concern.”
But when asked about the long-term effects of low dose exposure to the gas, he said it “is still actively being investigated.”
Alberta Health Services said that many studies looking at chronic exposure have investigated levels that are 100 to 1,000 times higher than what was observed in the 90-day study in Edmonton.
The World Health Organization website says that “there are no studies on effects of long-term exposure to hydrogen sulfide in animals.”
Bennett said that the lack of data about long-term low dose exposure in humans is also concerning.
“That’s much more difficult to study, because you can’t get a group of people and put them in hydrogen sulphide, 15 parts per billion for four years and deliberately expose them to it,” Bennett continued.
Epcor spokesperson Tim le Riche said that while the company strives to be a good neighbour, this is an issue of odour and not health.
“If the regulator brings any kind of new regulations or requirements to us, we will comply,” le Riche said.
Bennett and his family avoid the low-lying Gold Bar area and ski the higher trails in Capilano on the particularly stinky days. He said he would like to see health warnings for the public posted along the trails.
“Why not tell people that there’s potentially an issue here, and then they can judge themselves,” Bennett asked.
But nearby residents like Ware, see a move like that as pre-mature unless the long-term effects of low doses of H2S gas can be proven.
Provincial standards of 10 PPB is an ambient air quality level to control smells, but it is not illegal for levels to hit 25 to 36 PPB as recorded by Alberta Environment and David Bennett.
By May 1, 2016, Epcor must submit an odour control and management plan to the province as part of their Environmental Public Health act renewal.