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Testing by the province shows lead levels in soil are still too high in parts of Winnipeg, but not as high as they used to be.

Winnipeg Regional Health Authority medical officer of health Dr. Lisa Richards doesn’t think there’s reason to worry, but, when it comes to gardening, wants people to take precautions – particularly where lead levels are known to be high.

“We feel that the risk of lead in soil is low and, I mean, if people still have vegetables that they’ve grown from the summer, as long as they’re washed, they should be safe to eat,” says Dr. Richards.

Several more precautions Dr. Richards says they want people to be aware of are listed in a gardening fact sheet available on the province’s website. For example, it recommends adding fresh soil periodically, peeling root vegetables, and considering raised garden beds.

According to data from this year, the average lead concentration at Weston School has dropped since 2007, but is still above the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) guideline of 140 parts per million, with readings ranging from 96.3 to 446 ppm.

In the most recent soil tests, nine of 22 samples taken from Point Douglas showed levels of lead above the CCME guideline. A sample taken from Westview Park, in Sargent Park, was found to have a level of 439 ppm. The park used to be a landfill.

The province says the risk of health effects related to lead in soil is very low. It says CCME guidelines are based on year-round exposure, and with snow cover and frozen ground the risk of exposure is negligible.

Don Labossiere is the director of environmental compliance and enforcement with Manitoba Sustainable Development. He says this last study will serve as a baseline to move forward on more soil science issues.