Kids, staff banned from Weston School sports field due to lead contamination

Click to play video 'Manitoba health minister says soil tests are a priority' Manitoba health minister says soil tests are a priority
WATCH: Saying the NDP government dropped the ball, PC Health Minister Cameron Friesen says they are taking steps to ensure Winnipeg neighbourhood environments are safe.

Students and staff have been banned from using the sports field at a Winnipeg elementary school because of concerns about lead in the soil.

A 2007 study, first reported by CBC, showed 19 samples taken at Weston School were above accepted lead levels.

As a precaution the Winnipeg School Division says it is restricting use of the field while it works with the province on an action plan.

READ MORE: Winnipeg School Division considering year-round school, later classes for older students

Health Minister Cameron Friesen says the NDP government that commissioned the report should have done something sooner.

“Manitobans have a right to expect that the soil in their neighbourhoods is safe. I feel today for those residents of Winnipeg who are learning that ten years ago that wasn’t the case, and they weren’t warned. We need to act and we need to act now.”

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Friesen says it’s unlikely the soil has more lead in it today than it did a decade ago, but the government is now re-testing those areas that saw high rates of contamination.​ The results are expected back in December.

He also says representatives from the Winnipeg 1 School Division, in which Weston Elementary is located, are speaking with the province Thursday afternoon.

“We’ve essentially lost a decade of time because the NDP party obviously put their own interests ahead of the interests of Manitobans, and continue to do so. So today, this is why we have prioritized meetings between the school divisions and the department. I believe that actually as we speak now, the school division, Winnipeg 1 School Division, is meeting with department officials including public health officers talking about a plan that goes forward from today.”

READ MORE: Manitoba to set up air-monitoring system after St. Boniface soil tests for lead

The study also found other samples from Point Douglas and other Winnipeg neighbourhoods were also above lead contamination guidelines.

The Health Canada website says lead poisoning can cause many harmful health effects and the risks are greater for children because of their growing bodies.

Documents show the former Manitoba NDP government drafted a news release in 2008 to make the lead results public but it appears that never happened.

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-With files from Diana Foxall