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Province to test soil around west-end nuclear processing plant

The province has agreed to test the soil around a uranium processing plant which has been operating in Toronto’s west end for decades.

The existence of the GE Hitachi facility on Lansdowne Avenue came to light last October and since then, residents, politicians and public health officials have called for closer monitoring.

“The sampling and testing is being done in response to concerns expressed by the community and the request for soil testing made by Toronto’s medical officer of health,” Kate Jordan, spokeswoman for the Ministry of the Environment, said in an email.

She said the results of the tests — which will happen sometime this summer — will be made public and the ministry will take action if necessary. She didn’t specify what that might entail.

“Local residents want to know that their homes and neighbourhood are safe from the serious health effects of uranium exposure,” Davenport MPP Jonah Schein and MP Andrew Cash wrote in a letter last February.

“They are concerned that emissions from the plant via air and water have accumulated in the vicinity over the 50 years that the plant has been in operation. One specific concern is that the food they grow in private and community gardens is unsafe to eat.”

GE Hitachi says it monitors air and water emissions at the site and conducts soil tests at 50 spots within a one-kilometre radius of the facility where it makes uranium fuel pellets.

“Test results show that we are nearly a zero-emission plant with respect to uranium emissions and in all cases we meet or exceed government requirements,” the company says on its website.

It says soil samples from residential areas last year showed between one and four parts of uranium per million, which it says falls within levels found in the earth’s crust.

Uranium in other areas fall “well below” the federal criteria of 23 parts per million, the company claims.

Click here to see GE Hitachi’s own performance data.