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Residents in Sudbury, Ont. frustrated as it appears to be snowing in July and homeowners express dismay | Breaking:


Shannon Mikus was shocked to see what looked like snow falling in her backyard in mid-July.

Upon closer inspection, Mikus saw that they were small pieces of Styrofoam, which is closely related to and resembles Styrofoam.

Mikus and her neighbors, who are on a quiet residential street in the Minnow Lake neighborhood of Sudbury, Ontario, say a nearby construction project has spilled the material, covering patios and getting into swimming pools and even inside their homes.

“My youngest son is eight months old and I haven’t been able to play with him in my garden for probably two weeks because there are pieces of Styrofoam everywhere,” Mikus said, adding that he worries the pieces could end up in his mouth.

For more than two years, Bawa Hospitality Group has been building a seven-story, 137-unit senior residence on Second Avenue North, on a property that overlooks Mikus’ backyard.

Shannon Mikus, who lives in the Minnow Lake neighborhood of Sudbury, Ontario, says it’s been hard to enjoy her backyard this summer because a large senior residence is being built behind her home, and pieces of foam from the site construction have finished. on her property. (Jonathan Migneault/CBC)

Mikus said that she had an allergic reaction to the foam, with difficulty breathing and some congestion when the pieces were in the air.

“We’re trying to enjoy our summer, we’re trying to enjoy our backyards, and we can’t,” he said.

In addition to the foam, Mikus said, clear plastic bags and pieces of plastic ended up in his yard from the construction project. She said that she wants the construction site to be kept clean to prevent debris from reaching her garden.

Mikus also said that she and her family had planned to move to another part of the city in about a year, but now they want to move sooner due to construction.

The owner of the business, Danny Bawa, told Breaking: that they cleaned up the mess left in people’s yards by the construction, but did not elaborate.

Stacey Kidd, one of Mikus’s neighbors, said they sent two people with vacuum cleaners to remove pieces of foam from people’s yards.

We enjoy our backyard. Well, at least we get to enjoy our backyards.-Stacey Kidd from Sudbury, Ont.

“They have cleaned, but he [the construction site manager] indicated that this will continue,” he said.

“And basically we have to deal with it.”

Kidd said he’s not against the development, but added that there hasn’t been enough communication from developers to address the issue.

“I work in a long-term care facility, you know what? The more homes we can have for our senior population, of course, but do it this way,” she added.

A large building under construction.
A 137-unit senior home is being built next to a residential neighborhood in Sudbury. (Jonathan Migneault/CBC)

Like Mikus, Kidd said she and her husband may consider selling their home due to construction disruptions.

“We enjoy our backyards. Well, at least we enjoy our backyards,” he said.

“But I think it could get to that point where we could possibly consider selling one day.”

cleaning plans

Vincent Marando, project manager for the construction site, said that expanded polystyrene foam is an industry standard for insulation with stucco buildings.

Marando said that when workers are cutting the foam at higher levels, it’s impossible to completely prevent small pieces from flying out. They put up a fence to trap some, but the pieces will still end up in people’s yards, she said.

“So to be there and catch every little crystal that falls, it’s not possible.”

But Marando did note that they plan to do a deeper clean around the surrounding homes when they finish installing the foam insulation, in about four weeks.

“We will go through and clean all the properties,” he said.

“If necessary, we’ll replace the mulch in the flower beds. It’s not a big deal. Like, it’s going to take care of itself. It’s not carcinogenic.”

A man dressed in a blue shirt and a white construction hat.  He is standing in front of a building under construction.
Vincent Marando is the project manager on the construction site of a seven-story senior residence in the Minnow Lake neighborhood of Sudbury. (Jonathan Migneault/CBC)

Marando added that they have not violated any law and “here there are no ministries that force us to do anything.”

Environment Ministry spokesman Gary Wheeler confirmed in an email to Breaking: that ministry staff “were in the neighborhood on Friday, July 21 and confirmed that the cleanup was in progress.”

Wheeler said that since then, the ministry has received no other complaints from residents.

City of Greater Sudbury spokeswoman Tanya Gravel said in an email to Breaking: that environmental compliance officers were at the construction site on July 20 and “ordered two sewers to be cleaned with a vacuum truck and that A filter cloth will be installed on them to prevent any additional material from entering them.”

Gravel said Marando cooperated with the request with routine storm sewer inspections. He also had a filter cloth barrier installed over the sewers.

Environmental and health concerns

Miriam Diamond, a professor at the University of Toronto’s School of the Environment, said flame retardants mixed with expanded polystyrene foams used for construction are a health and environmental concern.

Diamond studies how pollutants enter the environment and how people can be exposed to them.

“What those flame retardants do, because they’re not chemically bonded to the Styrofoam, they leak over time,” he said.

“So depending on where the Styrofoam is, if it’s on the outside of the building, that means it’s going into the air and can get into surface water.”

Ontario building code requires flame retardant to be added to insulation for fire safety.

A gutter with bits of white foam caught in a spider web.
Even after cleaning, small pieces of Styrofoam can be found around properties on Camelot Drive in Sudbury. (Jonathan Migneault/CBC)

But Diamond said some researchers argue those regulations should be updated because fire retardants are so toxic.

“Independent fire scientists will say that once the flame hits the insulation, the game is over,” he said.

“That building insulation will confer minimal additional protection.”

According to a material safety data sheet from Mississauga, Ontario-based supplier EPS Depot Inc., the expanded polystyrene foam used in Sudbury contains a flame retardant called hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD).

A construction worker standing in an elevator, installing white foam pieces outside a building.
A worker installs expanded polystyrene foam, used for insulation, along the length of the nursing home under construction. (Jonathan Migneault/CBC)

The federal government has the chemical on its Schedule 1 Toxic Substances List under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Other substances in the list include asbestos, lead and mercury.

Fe de Leon, a researcher and legal assistant for the Canadian Environmental Law Association, said that when a substance is listed on Schedule 1, it triggers a risk management response from the federal government.

That answer could include restrictions on the use of the chemical or even an outright ban in Canada.

De León said the process is still underway for HBCD, but there is a waiver that would allow its continued use in expanded polystyrene foams as a fire retardant.

He said the chemical can stay in the environment “for a long time,” and similar flame retardants have been found to cause cancer and disrupt some hormones in the body, affecting development.

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