Please reconsider buying my contaminated property

To the Editor:

Open letter to Alberta Environment and Parks

Thank you for your letter of February 28, 2018. Your staff did not make an effort to contact me when construction started on the Toxic Park, at the former Osmose Site in Faust. I was home all the previous week, and you have my phone number. September 15, 2018 was the day they started. I first noticed the equipment arriving and called Robert Nygaard (Big Lakes County councilor) to find out what was going on. Then the contractor came over to tell me they were starting that same day. I had no notice whatsoever, and I wanted to move out for when the earth moving started.

As you know, there are extremely high dioxin hotspots in and around the Osmose Site. Moving that contaminated earth around is dangerous for me to be living within 100 metres.

Soil Exceedances: residential (from AMEC 2015 report)

Now that the land has been re-surveyed, it is apparent that at least one hotspot of contamination is definitely on my land. This location was contested by Alberta Environment in 2016, and the property line was moved so that the contamination was on Crown land. From the most recent survey stakes in the ground right now, it shows the hotspot is on my property. I haven’t cut the grass in this area since 2016.

I am living in a little cabin in my field, because my house was wrecked by two floods. In 2011, and 2013, it flooded the Osmose Site and my entire property. Engineering reports called for keeping Old Man Creek clear of the toxic site, but despite my continued calls to both Big Lakes County and Alberta Environment on both occasions, the creek was allowed to flood and spread contamination from the Osmose Site. The water was just swirling around, from the toxic site to my side.

My whole lawn and flower bed was covered in sediment right to the house, and some could have come from the Osmose Site. In 2012 I got sick working in my flower bed. After the flood in 2013, I moved out. Old Man Creek shouldn’t be high at this time of year, but it is, and it might be plugged at the lake again now.

When the engineer reported to our first-ever community meeting about the Osmose Site in July 2017, he was asked if people who drive their quads down the road to the lake are tracking contamination, and he said ‘yes’. That’s because there are hotspots right on the road due east of the Osmose Site.

There has never been any exposure control, and it seems like the plan for exposure control is now stalled during construction. I won’t even walk down there anymore.

I moved out and was paying rent for almost five years because of the flood and I got sick after 2013. I moved back in January 2018 to take up residence again because I love my place. Now I’m out again.

Even though it’s so beautiful there, I don’t feel comfortable gardening. My second generation flowers may not be safe to harvest. Despite asking, I haven’t been given information about uptake of dioxins in plants.

Some of the wood harvested from the Osmose Site was sold for firewood, and this is a real concern. Other wood from the Osmose site was burned on site, and the eagles were smart – they put a roof over their nest.

No one has paid my rent, and when I asked Norbert Raffael if he would pay my rent, he said ‘no’. I have toured government people from Alberta Environment around the site at least four times, and these are not small walks. Everyone else gets paid to do this work, but I have never been compensated, not even a ‘thank you’ card.

For these reasons I ask again that the Government of Alberta purchase my property:

I’m an Elder. I want to work on the land (gardening), and I can’t do anything there. I feel that my health has already been impacted through working in the soil at my place.

Contamination exists on my property, and we were not informed about it at the time of purchase in 1975. Despite consistent requests, Lesser Slave Lake sediment, the Faust water treatment settling ponds, and the fish in Lesser Slave Lake have never been tested for dioxins, PCBs and arsenic.

Because of past experience with Alberta Environment and Big Lakes County, I am not confident that they will do proper monitoring and maintenance of the Toxic Park and Old Man Creek.

I understand from my MLA’s office that it is in fact Alberta Infrastructure that is the ministry responsible for buildings and land. Please work with me to determine the correct department to petition to buy my property.

Thank you for your consideration,

Alenda Schafer
Slave Lake, AB

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