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Estevan city council learns about radon levels in homes

Also, Matt Stepp was introduced as the city's new building official.
Estevan city hall summer
Estevan city hall

ESTEVAN - Members of Estevan city council heard more about the prevalence of radon in local homes during their meeting on Sept. 11.

Pam Warkentin with Take Action on Radon and Sandy Hutchinson with Health Canada spoke to council about the results of the 100 Radon Test-Kit Challenge program that happened in Estevan last year and this year. The initiative looked to provide radon kits for 100 Estevan homes. All of the tools and resources were provided at no cost to the community, other than staff time.

"The reason that we run this program is to get people aware of radon," said Warkentin.

She pointed out radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers in Canada, and exposure to radon also greatly increases a smoker's risk of getting lung cancer. Warkentin pointed out that Health Canada believes exposure to radon results in 3,000 deaths from lung cancer per year.

Radon is a radioactive gas found in soil and can enter any building that has contact with the ground. Highest levels are found in the basement and first floor. Warkentin said buildings should be tested during a three-month span in the heating season and levels above 200 becquerels per cubic meter (bq/m3) should be reduced.

Sixty-six people in Estevan completed the survey associated with the free kits. Those who haven't completed their report or even opened the detector can still do so.

"We've now taken all of the data from those 66 detectors and summarized them into a report," said Warkentin.

Sixteen of the homes, or 24.2 per cent, tested between 200 and 600 bq/m3. Twenty-seven, or 40.9 per cent, were between 100 and 200 bq/m3, and 23, or 34.8 per cent, were under 100.

Nobody exceeded 600 bq/m3.

Forty-six participants were in a single-detached home. A few renters participated, and all were below the 200 bq/m3 level. 

Twenty-eight of the participants said they were quite likely to take action to reduce radon. Seventeen said they are very likely to remedy the situation, 15 were undecided and three were unlikely to do anything.

"This gives us a little bit of understanding of some awareness that we need to continue to do to help motivate people that might have high levels, to make sure that they do take action to reduce their levels," said Warkentin.

Certified professionals across the country can help reduce radon levels, and action guides are available across the country.

Coun. Shelly Veroba wanted to know if Take Action on Radon would do this again.

"I know last year after the program had already ended, we did have someone inquire about getting a kit, but those through the library had already been done," said Veroba. "I think if we did it again, we might get another 100 people who would participate."

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Matt Stepp has been hired as the city's new building official.

He told council his family resided in the Torquay area until he was about 14 years old. He has been working in the construction industry for almost a decade, and has been a journeyman since 2020.

"I'm looking forward to this next chapter in my life," he said.

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During the report for the South East Transportation Planning Committee, Coun. Lindsay Clark expressed hope that the committee would have added access now that Estevan MLA Lori Carr is the minister of Highways and Infrastructure.

Mayor Roy Ludwig suggested they bring the Roche Percee Access Road to Carr's attention. He noted surrounding communities support giving the road some attention, because it is in rough shape. He added the Roche Percee area is popular in the summer months due to the pierced rock formations.

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Council approved the Souris Valley Museum's request for $2,024 to remedy a mold issue in the storage/office area.

Veroba, who is part of the committee, said the issue started with an air conditioner in the city-owned facility. Moisture entered the room from the ceiling due to condensation leaking from the air conditioner unit, which is right above the electrical room.

Veroba noted the museum will now be on the city's monthly inspection list.

•••

Six building permits worth $397,000 were issued in August, bringing the total for the year to 29 permits worth more than $2.35 million.

There was one single-family residential permit, three garages and two miscellaneous permits for August.