The contaminated Pine Point railbed, an 80 km trail stretching from the Pine Point mine site to just east of Hay River, has been updated with signs informing people of potential health risks.
Signs now appear in English, French, Chipewyan, Cree, and South Slavey at access points to the trail.
The federal and territorial governments are warning users of the railbed to wear masks when riding ATVs; thoroughly wash all harvested berries, plants, and mushrooms; and not let children play in the soil.
“Cadmium and lead found in the surface soils and on vegetation along the former railbed pose a low health risk if ingested. To avoid spreading this material, we advise the public not to take quarry material from the former railbed,” reads the public health notice. The former mine site and railbed may also have been contaminated with fuel, oil, and grease over the years.
“Removing gravel or soil from the area to be used elsewhere is discouraged, as doing so could spread contamination into communities and the environment,” the online notice reads.
“These metals can enter the body through breathing large quantities of dust or eating plants covered in dust.”
The railway was in operation from 1964 until 1988, during which time lead and zinc concentrate was shuttled south.
Remediation of the railbed was declared complete in 2013, but some members of the public still expressed concern.
In 2013, an environmental site study determined the surface soil was contaminated. That was followed by human health and ecological risk assessments, and traditional knowledge and land use surveys.
The governments jointly said, “The findings from the traditional knowledge and land use survey will inform any required remediation work in the future.”
More than 30 sites are listed as contaminated in the NWT.