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PCBs still in use in city electrical equipment

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) still in use in City of Red Deer electrical equipment are in small concentrations allowed by federal law.

“We have about 20 years to look after that so we’re well ahead of schedule,” said Paul Goranson, the city’s Development Services Department director.

Federal regulations allow for owners of PCB equipment to continue using it until the end of its service life.

PCBs persist in the environment as well as in humans and animals and are believed to cause cancer.

The city was fined $50,000 earlier this month for releasing PCBs at a West Park power transformer substation in October 2010. About 160 litres of contaminated oil leaked from a punctured storage drum. PCBs were added to oil insulating electrical equipment.

Goranson said federal standards call for contaminated oil with higher concentrations of PCBs — items with 500 mg per kilogram or more — to be removed from service by Dec. 31, 2009.

“Those have all been removed so we did meet that target,” he said, adding there were four locations with those high concentrations.

Those with between 50 and 500 mg per kilogram and “in sensitive areas” were also to be removed by 2009’s end “and that’s been done.”

Sensitive areas are defined as near drinking water treatment plants, food or feed processing plants, child-care facilities, preschools, primary schools, secondary schools, hospitals or senior citizens’ care facilities.

“The remaining ones we have in essence until the end of 2025 to remove,” he said, adding 44 sites around the city have been identified based on tests.

Goranson said protocols for dealing with PCBs were under review before federal charges were laid.

“As soon as we were charged — and even before then — we’d taken some steps . . . so there have been significant changes.

“It’s not something we’d tried to hide. We reported it to (Alberta) Environment in the first place.”

rfiedler@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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