Quebec government steps in to clean up illegal PCB site

MONTREAL – The Quebec government has stepped in to clean up a PCB dump in a Montreal suburb after the company illegally storing the dangerous material failed to do so.

Reliance Power Equipment Ltd. had been given until last Thursday to provide an action plan to secure the site and remove the PCBs.

Toxic materials have been present for years on the property in suburban Pointe-Claire, but were only detected in March after a spill of about 1,000 litres on the property.

Quebec Environment Minister Yves-Francois Blanchet paid a visit today and announced that his department will now take charge of securing and decontaminating the site.

Inspections carried out last weekend confirmed that Reliance did not carry through on any of the measures it had promised to take.

Blanchet says the cost of getting rid of the PCBs could be as high as $3.5 million — and that doesn’t include decontamination of the soil, if necessary.

Companies have been hired to work at making the site secure, and that includes immediate repairs to a fence around the property. A contract has also been signed for the disposal of the PCBs.

The Quebec environment minister says his patience with Reliance has reached its limits.

The company will be asked to reimburse all the costs that have been assumed by the province.

The incident has stirred memories in Quebec of the 1988 St-Basile-le-Grand crisis, where thousands of people were evacuated from their homes following an explosion at a warehouse where PCBs were stored.

The provincial government had kept the more recent incident quiet since March. News of it only emerged in August, five months after the spill.

Bill McMurchie, the mayor of Pointe-Claire, said he hadn’t even heard about it — although he notes that his own administration was actually made aware in March.

PCBs are components in older transformers and are linked to cancer and other adverse health effects, including damage to the nervous system.

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