August 22, 2003

Montreal Gazette

Environmentalists led by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. apply pressure
over leaking PCBs

by Harvey Shepherd

Environmental groups supported by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. are seeking to exert pressure in a controversy over PCBs leaking into the St. Lawrence River near the Victoria Bridge. But Alan DeSousa, Montreal executive committee member responsible for the environment, said the city and Canadian and Quebec governments are at work on the problem.

DeSousa said he hopes work can begin this fall or next spring on a wall along the landward side of the Bonaventure Expressway to trap much of the PCB-contaminated oil oozing from a former dump more than a century old.

Kennedy, a scion of the U.S. political dynasty, is president of an international coalition called the Waterkeeper Alliance.

In Montreal for a Canadian Bar Association conference, he visited the site Sunday.

The alliance last week submitted a request for an investigation to the Montreal-based Commission for Environmental Co-operation. The commission is an offshoot of the North American Free-Trade Agreement.

The request was filed on behalf of several community groups, some of which say they first documented PCB discharges three years ago.

The groups assert that Montreal,Quebec and Canada have known about the leakage but failed to take action.

In early 2002, the city proposed to build a wall, at a cost of $7 million or $8 million, to trap the contaminated oil while allowing groundwater to run off.

The three governments agreed to put the project on hold pending more research on what might be in the groundwater.

DeSousa said he thinks research is reaching a stage where construction can move ahead.