April 27, 2004

Secretariat recommends factual record for Montreal Technoparc submission   by Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC)

On 19 April, the Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) recommended to the CEC Council that a factual record be developed for the Montreal Technoparc submission (SEM-03-005), filed with the Secretariat on 14 August 2003, by five environmental nongovernmental organizations from Canada and the United States.

For close to a hundred years, the site where the Technoparc is located was part of a dump used for industrial and household waste. The City of Montreal now owns the site. The Submitters allege that polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other pollutants are seeping into the Saint Lawrence River from the Technoparc, in violation of s. 36(3) of the Fisheries Act, which prohibits—unless authorized by regulation—the deposit of a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish. The Submitters assert that Canada is failing to effectively enforce s. 36(3) in regard to these alleged violations.

In its response, Canada explains that in October 1998, Environment Canada issued a warning to the City of Montreal regarding the site, and since that time, Canada states that the Ministry has carried out twenty visual inspections of oil-containment booms at the site to make sure that the equipment for containing and recovering hydrocarbons is functioning properly. Following a request by some of the Submitters in April 2002, Environment Canada conducted an investigation for violation of s. 36(3) of the Fisheries Act. According to Canada, the investigation succeeded in gathering all the evidence required to establish an offense, except the identity of the person or persons responsible for the deposits. As a result, the Ministry decided to end its investigation. In 2002, the City proposed installing a system aimed at stopping substances present in a suspended phase from draining into the Saint Lawrence River. Canada states that Environment Canada expressed concerns about the capacity of such a system to contain substances present in a dissolved phase. In the response, Canada states that Environment Canada is in talks with the province of Quebec and the City of Montreal to find a comprehensive solution to the problem.

After reviewing the submission in light of Canada’s response, the Secretariat recommended a factual record to develop and present information regarding the following matters in relation to whether Canada is failing to effectively enforce section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act in regard to deposits of deleterious substances from the area of the Montreal Technoparc site to the Saint Lawrence River:

  • Environment Canada’s use of inspections and a warning as enforcement tools in connection with ongoing deposits;
  • the lead-up to and timing of Environment Canada’s decision to undertake an investigation in response to a request from members of the public;
  • characteristics and fate of chemical contamination in the sector of the Montreal Technoparc;
  • effectiveness and cost of oil containment and pumping system(s) in place since the early 1990s;
  • availability and cost of options for addressing pollution of fish-bearing waters from heterogeneous contaminated sites such as the sector of the Montreal Technoparc;
  • evidence needed to lay charges for an infraction of section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act in the case of multi-owner contaminated sites such as the Montreal Technoparc;
  • considerations of the Attorney General in making its determinations in regard to the Montreal Technoparc site, as appropriate;
  • the ecotoxicological study carried out in 2002, in regard to enforcement of section 36(3);
  • effects of divided ownership in the Technoparc sector on success of enforcement efforts; effects, if any, of Environment Canada technical actions and advice on success of enforcement efforts;
  • ongoing discussions between Environment Canada, the Quebec Ministry of the Environment, the city of Montreal, and owners of others sites in the sector; and
  • compliance promotion efforts following the decision not to seek charges.The CEC Secretariat informed the Council of its determination on 19 April 2004, and now, five business days later, is able to provide public notification of the determination and to present its reasons in the public registry. The full text of the submission, Canada’s response and the Secretariat’s factual record recommendations are available on the CEC web site, at <www.cec.org/citizen>.

    Article 14 of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC) provides that the CEC Secretariat may consider a submission from any person or nongovernmental organization asserting that a Party to the NAAEC is failing to effectively enforce an environmental law. Where the Secretariat determines that the NAAEC Article 14(1) criteria are met, it may then proceed with a process that can lead to the development of a factual record on the matter.

    The CEC was established under the NAAEC to address environmental issues in North America from a continental perspective, with a particular focus on those arising in the context of liberalized trade. The CEC Council, the organization’s governing body, is composed of the top environment officials of Canada, Mexico and the United States.