Part of a popular park in Guelph has been fenced off due to concerns about underground contamination.

The fences went up this week at Goldie Mill Park – four months after the city received a report from the Grand River Conservation Authority warning of chemicals in the ground.

“There was a concern for public health,” says Mario Petricevic, the city’s general manager of facilities management.

“We just want to make sure that we take care of our citizens.”

Part of the park – a section of trail leading to the Goldie Mill ruins – was fenced off last year after sinkholes were discovered.

The new fences now block off a much larger section of the park, including the ruins themselves.

Petricevic says the contamination was discovered during testing of the area around the sinkholes. It is not believed that the chemicals spread beyond the area that is currently fenced off.

While the contamination is beyond provincial standards for soil quality, it is not believed to carry a significant public health risk. The GRCA classifies the risk as “low”, even for a person who spends 40 hours a week in the park.

Specific contaminants found at surface level include about 20 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons – residual matter from items that likely didn’t burn properly when an incinerator was active in the area – and several petroleum hydrocarbons, which are chemicals related to oil.

Before it was destroyed by fire in 1953, the Goldie Mill site was home to a mill, foundry, distillery, tannery, piggery and other industrial uses for more than a century.

Goldie Mill Park is operated by the City of Guelph, although the land it sits on belongs to the GRCA.