Soil contamination has forced the Southwest borough to close two community gardens and part of a third. The Gazette has more:
The borough said it took the decision after tests analyzed by the Public Health Department showed levels of toxins higher than acceptable norms. However, levels of toxins consumed through produce cultivated in the gardens are minimal, health officials said.
“We can tell you right now, there is no worry for your health as a result of eating vegetables from this soil,” Monique Beausoleil, a toxicologist with the department told about 100 gardeners at a meeting at the St. Cunégonde community centre in Little Burgundy.
She explained most of the contaminants were found in soil lower than the roots that most typical vegetables grow, so their absorption rate was very low.
A total of 167 plots will be closed in three locations: the Pointe Verte garden on Knox St. in Point St. Charles at the corner of Charlevoix St., the Des Seigneurs garden on Des Seigneurs St. at St. Jacques St. in Little Burgundy, and the eastern section of the Little Burgundy garden on Dominion St. at the corner of Blake.
The borough said people can apply to be transferred to the non-affected gardens. Priority will be given to those who have been using the gardens the longest.
11 gardens across the city have already been closed but as many as 30 others are known to be contaminated. Considering their importance as social spaces, not to mention their role in providing their users with a source of healthy food, it’s amazing that so little has been done to provide alternatives to those gardens that have been closed. So far, the city has said that it hopes to decontaminate and re-open the closed gardens by 2010, which strikes me as an awfully long time for gardeneners to be deprived of their plots.
Why isn’t more being done to think outside the box (or, in this case, the garden plot)? Alternative forms of community gardening, such as container gardening, have been put to great use as part of McGill’s Edible Campus. While gardens in some of the city’s most marginalized neighbourhoods are closed—the three most recently-closed gardens are all located in Little Burgundy and Point St. Charles—container gardening could be an effective way to maintain the gardens’ usefulness.