Biologist’s Report

April 4/2002

Technoparc report – biologist
by David Dillenbeck

Mark Mattson Environmental Bureau of Investigation 225 Brunswick Ave. Toronto, ON M5S 2M6

RE: Montreal Technoparc Landfill Site, City of Montreal, Quebec.


This site, which is now closed, is situated on the northerly side of and adjacent to the St. Lawrence River, between Point Charles and the Victoria Bridge. It is my understanding that this site served as an area for the disposal of waste from the city of Montreal from approximately the 1870’s to the mid-1960’s. It is also my understanding that industrial waste constituted a significant portion, if not the majority, of the material that was deposited at this site during its lifetime. Sometime in the mid-1960’s this site was closed and the surface of some portion of it was paved to create parking for Expo 67. In 1988 an industrial park, named the Montreal Technoparc, was established on some, if not all, of this former landfill site.


I visited this site on February 20, 2002 with Mr. Eric Mattson. At the time of this site visit we observed patches of multi-coloured sheen on the surface of the St. Lawrence River adjacent to the northerly shore, in the vicinity of the Victoria Bridge. This sheen had the same appearance as the sheen that develops when oil, gasoline or other petroleum products are deposited on the surface of water. Individual patches were usually visible for only a short period of time. A patch would usually appear first as a small, intensely coloured disc of one centimetre or less in diameter; this disc would then expand and the multi-colours would dissipate and be visible over an area of anywhere from one to several square metres. The total time that elapsed between the first appearance and the disappearance of a patch was typically thirty seconds or less.

These patches were appearing, expanding and disappearing continuously in an area estimated to have been several thousand square metres, extending out from the northerly shore approximately 20 metres and extending approximately 500 metres downstream from their source.

This sheen was observed to originate from two points, separated by approximately fifty metres, along the northerly shore of the St. Lawrence River in an area that is approximately midway between Point Charles and the Victoria Bridge. Each of these two point sources corresponded to the location of a yellow boom. These yellow booms were each approximately ten metres in length and each was attached at both ends to the northerly shore of the river.

The purpose of the booms seems to have been to contain a black, tarry substance that we observed as variously sized blobs emerging from between and under the stones at the water’s edge within the boomed areas. However, this purpose was being totally defeated by the velocity of the water flowing along the northerly shore of the St. Lawrence River at this location. I estimated the velocity to have been approximately 1 to 2 metres per second at the time. This velocity produced very turbulent and rough water adjacent to and within the boomed areas. The resultant wave action carried the blobs away from the water’s edge, where they became suspended in the water column. The turbulent water was observed carrying the blobs over and under the booms and into the river proper. If one of these blobs reached the surface of the water, it would typically flatten and quickly begin to give rise to the multi-coloured sheen observed on the surface of the river.

Several absorbent pads were observed floating on the surface of the water within the upstream boomed area. All of these pads were totally soaked with black material. An oily sheen, very similar to that described previously, was observed to be emanating almost continuously from these pads. The sheen would dissipate within the boomed area, then be carried by wave action from the boomed area into the river and ultimately be carried downstream.

No surface water discharge to the river was observed at either of the boomed locations and there was no evidence that the black material had been dumped along the shore, therefore, I expect that sub-surface or groundwater flow is conveying the black material to the water’s edge.

The appearance, expansion and disappearance of the patches occurred on a continuous basis for the duration of our visit, which lasted for approximately one hour. Mr. Mattson took a number of photographs of these occurrences and of the conditions within the booms and on the river generally.

Sampling and Analysis/Testing

During the past 18 months this site has been visited on a number of occasions by EBI personnel and a number of samples have been collected for a variety of laboratory analysis. The following is a summary of the sampling dates, the analyses performed and the type of material these analyses were performed on (i.e. water or sediment).

Summary of Analysis Performed

DATE               PCBs                  PAHs              VOHs                 Petroleum                  Toxicity
Oct 3/00        Water                  –                       –                            Water                        –
Oct 26/00      Water                 Water              Water                   Water                       Water
Sediment           Sediment
Nov 21/00     Water                  Water             –                             –                                  –
Jan 20/02      Water                  Water            –                             –                                  –

The water sample collected on October 3, 2000 at T-1 was analyzed at Philips Analytical Service Labs, 5555 North Service Road, Burlington, Ontario, L7L 5H7. All of the other water samples were analyzed at Environmental Technology Research Laboratories Inc., 133 Dalton Ave., Kingston, Ontario K7K 6C2. The analytical results are summarized in Table 1. The toxicity testing was performed by Aquatic Sciences Inc., St. Catharines, Ontario L2R 7R8 and the report is included.


An abundance of national and international scientific studies have concluded that polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are highly toxic, persistent and bioaccumulative substances. Environment Canada identifies PCBs as a persistent toxic substance and as such, is “too dangerous to the ecosystem and to humans to permit their release in any quantity”. Appendix B of Water Management: Policies, Guidelines, Provincial Water Quality Objectives of the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Energy (July 1994) identifies PCBs as a banned hazardous substance.

The available data indicate that at concentrations above 0.001 ug/L (or 0.001 parts per billion), PCBs are both acutely toxic and chronically toxic to aquatic life. This is the concentration that both the International Joint Commission (IJC) for the Great Lakes and the province of Ontario have established as the water quality objective for PCBs. The Quebec Surface Water Criteria for the prevention of contamination of aquatic organisms for PCBs is 1.7 X 10-7 mg/L (or 1.7 X 10-7 parts per million). This is equivalent to 0.00017 ug/L (parts per billion), which is more than two orders of magnitude lower than either the IJC or the Ontario objective and is, therefore, more stringent.

A Canadian Water Quality Guideline for the Protection of Freshwater Aquatic Life for Total PCBs was established at 0.001 ug/L in 1987. This guideline was subsequently withdrawn, with the recommendation that: “This substance meets the criteria for Track 1 substances under the national CCME Policy for the Management Toxic Substances (PMTS) (i.e.,persistent, bioaccumulative, primarily the result of human activity, and CEPA-toxic or equivalent), and should be subject to virtual elimination strategies. Guidelines can serve as action levels or interim management objectives towards virtual elimination.”

In my assessment of the concentrations of PCBs reported for the water samples collected at this site, I have used the widely accepted concentration of 0.001 ug/L as a general guideline. I have done this with the understanding that the guideline established by the Province of Quebec is more stringent, and that a substance whose concentration is reported at the guideline concentration of 0.001 ug/L has exceeded the Quebec guideline by approximately 6 times.

Water samples collected at T-1, inside the boom, on October 3, 2000, October 26, 2000, November 21, 2000 and January 20, 2002 were reported to contain Total PCBs at concentrations of 31.0 ug/L, 368.0 ug/L, 941.0 ug/L and 0.65 ug/L, respectively. These concentrations of Total PCBs exceed the concentration of 0.001 ug/L by 31,000 times, 368,000 times, 941,000 times and 650 times, respectively.

A water sample collected at T-2, outside the boom, on January 20, 2002 was reported to contain Total PCBs at a concentration of 0.82 ug/L. This concentration exceeds the concentration of 0.001 ug/L by 820 times. In addition, this concentration is greater than the concentration reported for sample T-1 (inside the boom) of 0.65 ug/L, taken on the same date.

A water sample collected at T-3, inside the boom at the water’s edge, on January 20, 2002 was reported to contain Total PCBs at a concentration of 8,530.0 ug/L. This concentration exceeds the concentration of 0.001 ug/L by 8,530,000 times.

The sediment sample collected at T-1 on October 26, 2000 was reported to contain Total PCBs at a concentration of 6.4 ug/g (or 6.4 ppm, which is equivalent to 6,400 ppb). This concentration exceeds the Probable Effect Level (PEL) of the Canadian Sediment Quality Guideline for the Protection of Aquatic Life – Freshwater for Total PCBs of 277 ug/kg (or 277 ppb) by more than 20 times. This is particularly significant when combined with the fact that the shoreline at this location is continuously scoured by the high velocity flow in the St. Lawrence River here.

This data indicates that PCBs are present in the water and sediments of St. Lawrence River adjacent to the Montreal Technoparc site, both inside and outside the boom. Furthermore, the concentrations of Total PCBs reported at this location are, at the very least, hundreds of times in excess of the generally accepted guideline for the protection of freshwater aquatic life.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (or PAH’s) are a diverse group of aromatic hydrocarbons (containing two or more fused arene structures). Numerous aromatic configurations (i.e. compounds) are possible but most of the information on the fate of PAH’s in the aquatic environment is available for only a few of these compounds, such as anthracene, benzo(a)pyrene, fluoranthene and phenanthrene.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has concluded that benzo(a)pyrene and benzo(a)anthracene are carcinogenic to experimental animals and that each is a probable human carcinogen. Several PAH’s, including anthracene, benzo(a)pyrene, benzo(a)anthracene and phenanthrene, display very high acute toxicity to aquatic organisms including fish and freshwater invertebrates. Certain PAH’s, including benzo(a)pyrene, benzo(a)anthracene and phenanthrene have been shown to bioaccumulate in fish tissues (i.e. bioconcentration factors in the range of 1000X to 5000X). Some PAH’s, including benzo(a)pyrene, benzo(a)anthracene, phenanthrene are persistent in water and/or sediments.

Several of the water samples collected at this site were analyzed for PAH’s. The Canadian Water Quality Guideline for the Protection of Freshwater Aquatic Life (CWQG:PAL-F) for each of benzo(a)anthracene (0.018 ug/L), fluoranthene (0.04 ug/L) and pyrene (0.025 ug/L) was exceeded at all three sampling locations on at least one occasion (and often on 2 or 3 occasions at T-1).

Furthermore, the CWQG:PAL-F’s for acenaphthene, anthracene, benzo(a)pyrene, and penanthrene were exceeded at at least one sampling location on at least one occasion.

In addition, petroleum hydrocarbons, total oil and grease, and chemical oxygen demand (COD) were reported in water samples at concentrations several orders of magnitude in excess of those that would be either expected or acceptable in freshwater environments. A water sample collected at T-1 on October 3, 2000 was reported to contain Petroleum Hydrocarbons at a concentration of 160,000 ug/L. A water sample collected at T-1 on October 26, 2000 was reported to contain Total Oil and Grease at a concentration of 2,430,000 ug/L and to have a COD of 390,000 ug/L. On two occasions the ERTL lab reports contained significant observations and comments with respect to these substances. The lab report for the water sample collected at T-1 on October 26, 2000, contained the statement that “sample extract diluted 50 times due to large amounts of oil in the sample”. The lab report that for the water samples collected at T-1, T-2 and T-3 on January 20, 2002, contained the statement that “high levels of other hydrocarbons caused poor surrogate recoveries”.

The 24-Hour Static Daphnia Magna Single Concentration Test (see Appendix 1) was performed on a water sample collected October 26, 2000 at T-1, inside the boom. Upon receipt of the sample at the laboratory, the technician who performed the test made some significant observations and comments. The sample was described as a “fairly clear liquid”; the colour was described as “yellow”; the presence of “oil on the surface” was noted and a “strong varsol” odour was also noted. The result of this test was that 83% of the test organisms had died in the sample and therefore the sample was deemed to have failed the test.


In conclusion, it is my opinion that numerous hazardous substances, including PCBs, PAH’s and petroleum hydrocarbons, are being discharged to the St. Lawrence River adjacent to the Montreal Technoparc (a former landfill site), which is water that is frequented by fish. These hazardous substances are present in the water and sediments of the St. Lawrence River at concentrations that are well in excess of established Provincial, Federal and International guidelines. These hazardous substances are deleterious to fish and other aquatic biota and will cause or are likely to cause the impairment of the quality of the natural environment for any use that can be made of it. Remedial measures must be taken to eliminate this discharge and to protect and upgrade the water quality of the St. Lawrence River.

If you have any further questions or comments concerning this situation, please do not hesitate to contact me.

David A. Dillenbeck
15 Robert Road Perth, Ontario K7H 2Z9

Tables with sample results are available here.