[Sudbury] Soils Study inspires textbook – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – April 13, 2012)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

It would cost $15 million and take eight years to complete, but the Sudbury Soils Study is a milestone in Sudbury’s journey from mining-devastated landscape to a greener, healthier city, says the author of a new textbook.

Chris Wren, who headed up the study through his Sudbury Area Risk Assessment (SARA) Group, released the 450-page book on the study funded by Vale and Xstrata (formerly Inco and Falconbridge) at the Vale Living With Lakes Centre on Thursday.

The book has a title as weighty as its contents — Risk Assessment and Environmental Management: A Case Study in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.

It compiles thousands of pages of research from three technical reports that Wren and the Sudbury Soils Study’s technical committee realize few people, “almost no one,” will read, said Wren. The textbook is aimed at students and scientists interested in conducting similar studies.

The study begun in 2001 aimed to look at the impact a century of mining and smelting operations had on the Sudbury Basin.

It was recommended by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment after its own testing showed higher than average levels of metal contamination in Sudbury soils.

Representatives from six organizations — the two mining companies, the City of Greater Sudbury, the Environment ministry, the Sudbury & District Health Unit and Health Canada — formed the technical committee that led the study.

Wren said the goal was to do a good, credible and detailed study on how mining has affected an area and what can be done to repair the human and environmental damage it caused.

Wren, who has a doctorate in an aquatic sciences, said interest was highest in the Human Health Risk Assessment concluded by SARA in 2008.

It identified emissions and soil contamination in some areas of the city that prompted better air monitoring and actions by the two major miners to reduce sulphur emissions, and control nickel and other metal dust.

Vale and Xstrata participated in the study voluntarily, said Wren, and footed the bill for it.

That prompted some criticism about a possible bias in the study.

Wren said the study has already led to action such as the city’s biodiversity plan, which he called “the next generation of regreening.”

Three or more decades of neutralizing Sudbury’s acid soil and planting millions of trees has turned a landscape once compared to the moon surface into a relatively lush community.

But the ecological risk assessment released in 2009 showed there wasn’t the diversity of plant and animal life in the city there should be.

One step in the city’s biodiversity plan has been transplanting carpets of vegetation ripped up by the four-laning of Highway 69 south and replanting in areas where it has taken root.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Sudbury Star website: http://www.thesudburystar.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3532333

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