August 22/2003

CBC News

NAFTA asked to probe Montreal toxic leak
by CBC News Online staff

Montreal: Environmental groups [including the Environmental Bureau of Investigation] have asked NAFTA’s ecological watchdog to investigate toxic sludge loaded with PCBs leaking into the St. Lawrence River near Montreal.

The oily black substance is oozing out of the rock at a former toxic waste site that’s now a high-tech industrial park.

A series of yellow inflatable booms is containing the substance, but environmentalists say PCBs from the sludge are leaking into the river.

“I’ve never seen a site like this. I mean, we just don’t see this stuff anymore,” said American environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Kennedy’s group, the Waterkeeper Alliance, submitted a report to the Commission for Environmental Co-operation saying the amount of PCBs leaking into the river are hundreds or even millions times higher than acceptable standards.

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are highly toxic, causing cancer and birth defects. When the city bought the former industrial waste site 15 years ago, it took responsibility for any pollution from the dump.

“I wish I had a magic wand that, with one fell swoop, could fix it all,” said Alan DeSouza, the Montreal city councillor responsible for the environment.

“We’re trying out best to find something that would be a permanent solution,” said DeSouza.

DeSouza said he hopes to build a wall to keep the PCBs out of the river, and he wants the federal and provincial governments to help pay for it.

To read more, visit the Environmental Bureau of Investigation‘s Montreal Technoparc site: