Construction of a new roof at the 121-year old Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver has been delayed due to the discovery, during roof demolition, of dust contaminated with higher than acceptable levels of lead.
This was the first sentence of our public notification of the lead dust found in the Cathedral. It felt like defeat to a Director of Development in the middle of a fundraising campaign. Already at 84% of the way toward our target of $7.5 million, we could see the finish line, and then the lead dust was discovered!
The lead contaminated dust originated from the 7th of the 9 layers of the roof, a layer designed for ventilation, and its most likely source is thought to be exhaust from vehicle traffic outside the Cathedral from 1894-1995. Cracks in the heritage protected, tongue and groove cedar ceiling of the Cathedral’s upper level allowed small amounts of this dust to fall into the nave. Once it was discovered, safety consultants and WorkSafeBC systematically began testing all parts of the Cathedral and found the contaminated dust in the heating and ventilation (HVAC) system, depositing residues above the ceilings in the Cathedral’s lower level and in the dust samples taken from within the pipes of the Kenneth Jones organ (installed during the major interior renovation of 2003-2004).
In each of these cases, the lead dust was found in areas that are typically inaccessible to the public. Higher than acceptable levels of lead were never found in the air or on surfaces that are regularly cleaned and there has been no exposure for parishioners, visitors and Cathedral staff. There has been no impact on health and safety in the building.
Remediation was nearing completion when this article was written in mid October 2015. The Cathedral has engaged industry-leading remediation experts, who, along with WorkSafeBC representatives, have used this opportunity to develop new protocols for removing lead from difficult to reach places. In accordance with haz-mat protocols, the ceiling of the Cathedral’s nave (level 9 of the roof structure) has been covered with an adhesive plastic to prevent any further intrusion of the dust as it is vacuumed out from the roof. In the lower level, ceiling tiles have been replaced and dust residues vacuumed. The HVAC system and pipe organ are being thoroughly cleaned.
As stewards of this Class A heritage building in our downtown, we have responsibility for maintaining the structural integrity and safety of the Cathedral building. Built by a small group of faithful Anglicans, this building has hosted countless weddings, funerals, public events and daily worship. While the trend of our time is to tear down and re-build old buildings, a healthy Cathedral heritage building is a great resource now and will be for generations to come. This is why we are committed to the seismic upgrades and new roof and now are working as quickly as possible to complete the necessary remediation to the highest standards.
The fundraising goal for the Cathedral’s capital campaign ‘Raise the Roof, Ring the Bells, Feed the Hungry’ is now $9 million. This has necessitated a new fundraising plan with an opportunity to refine our message and welcome new donors. And with each new conversation, I am reminded of the significance of this building. It represents 127 years of Anglican ministry in downtown Vancouver. It is part of countless memories of spiritual growth, weddings, baptisms, and memorial services. It has been host to concerts, public debates, lectures and theatre. And it is our responsibility to carry that forward as those before us have done.
For more information on joining the community effort to restore, renew, preserve and protect this much-loved building in the heart of Vancouver please visit the campaign webpages.
PHOTOS (all courtesy of MKnowles Photography)