January 30, 2002

H20 Info News

Environmentalists find toxic slick in St. Lawrence

Environmental groups are calling on the federal government to launch a criminal investigation of the City of Montreal after spotting a 400-metre-long toxic oil slick flowing into the St. Lawrence River.

Members of environmental groups Société pour Vaincre la Pollution (SVP) and the Environmental Bureau of Investigation (EBI) found the slick, which is normally contained by floating boons which have been removed for the winter, during what the groups call “a routine investigation” at the Technoparc Saint Laurent, an advanced technology research park situated on an old hazardous waste site in Greater Montreal.

Historically, the site was used to bury domestic and industrial waste until 1966. It was then covered with asphalt to be used as a parking lot for the Expo ’67 World’s Fair. Until 1972, it was used as a small city airport. The city of Montreal assumed responsibility for the Technoparc site in the 1980s and decided to develop it into a park dedicated to research in advanced technology – the 30 million square foot Technoparc.

Société pour Vaincre la Pollution first noticed a continuous flow of hydrocarbons and toxic wastes into the St. Lawrence River from the old landfill site under the Technoparc during the summer and fall of 1988. Samples taken from the St. Lawrence River during earlier investigations at the Technoparc reveal PCBs discharging from the site at levels measuring 368 parts per billion – hundreds of thousands of times government guidelines.

In May 2000 the city announced it would build a kilometre-long underground wall to stop the contaminants and pump them out, but the project was apparently shelved for feasibility reasons. The day after the slick was discovered on January 20, the City reactivated the idea and issued a call for submissions to draw up plans.