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Updated recommendations for gardens affected by AIM fire smoke

By Regis Phillips Dec 7, 2023 | 6:42 AM

The Department of Health has updated its guidance on garden produce that may have been exposed to smoke from the September 14th fire at American Iron and Metal (AIM) in Saint John.

Soil was tested at nine community gardens in the area where there was smoke. For the purpose of comparison, three alternate sites a similar distance from the AIM site but not affected by smoke were also tested.

All samples were tested for a variety of metals and chemicals that could be expected following this type of fire.

Most of the results were within the range of what would be considered typical for soil in that part of the province.

However, four of the 12 sites had one or more test results with higher-than-expected levels of metals or chemicals: three within the area of the smoke plume, and one from a location that was used for comparison.

These four sites will require further investigation.

The health department also makes recommendations to anyone with produce from a garden that may have been exposed to smoke at the time of the fire:

  • Crops that grow underground, such as potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, etc., should be peeled and washed before using.
  • Vegetables and fruits with smooth surfaces that are grown above ground, such as tomatoes and apples, should be thoroughly washed before consumption.
  • Vegetables such as leafy greens and asparagus, and any vegetable that cannot be thoroughly washed, should be discarded through the regular household garbage and not through compost.
  •  If cannabis plants have evidence of soot or other fallout from the fire, it would be safest not to consume. They can be disposed of in the same manner as other produce that cannot be washed.

“At this point, based on the test results analyzed during this investigation, we do not believe these elevated results are related to the AIM fire,” said Dr. Kimberly Barker, regional chief medical officer of health.

“While the AIM fire has likely impacted soil quality in the city, our findings do not suggest it has impacted soil to the point that it poses a risk to the health of citizens.”

The government has provided a fact sheet guidance for gardening in areas where there is or has been industrial activity. More details can be found by clicking here.