November 21, 2003

Montreal Technoparc: the CEC receives a response from Canada
by Commission for Environmental Cooperation

On 14 November, the Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) received Canada’s response to submission SEM-03-005/Montreal Technoparc, filed with the Secretariat on 14 August 2003 by five environmental nongovernmental organizations from Canada and the United States. The CEC must now review the submission in light of Canada’s response to determine whether preparation of a factual record is warranted. 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.

In its response, Canada describes Environment Canada’s responsibilities regarding the administration of s. 36(3) of the Fisheries Act, identifies penalties applicable to violations of s.36(3), and describes the compliance promotion and enforcement programs established by Canada to prevent pollution of waters frequented by fish through compliance with the Fisheries Act. The response contains a brief overview of information held by Environment Canada regarding the area, including information on the area’s land use history, a list of environmental studies carried out in the area, information on land ownership, and a description of actions taken by Environment Canada with respect to the Technoparc site since 1998.

In its response, Canada explains that as regards compliance promotion, Environment Canada is in talks with the province of Quebec and the City of Montreal to find a comprehensive solution to the problem. 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. The Ministry participated in a study on the effects on fish of substances in a dissolved phase.

Canada goes on to state that, regarding enforcement, in October 1998, Environment Canada issued a warning to the City of Montreal because of the poor condition of booms installed by the City to contain the oily substances flowing from the site, and also because the City had ceased its oil pumping activities. Since that time, Canada states that the Ministry has carried out twenty visual inspections of the booms 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 decided to conduct 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, which could not be established because of a lack of evidence showing which site or sites in the area is or are the source of the deposits. As a result, the Ministry decided to end its investigation.

Pursuant to Article 15(1) of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, the Secretariat must now notify the CEC’s Council whether it considers that the submission, in light of Canada’s response, warrants developing a factual record.

The CEC was established by the governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States to address regional environmental concerns, help prevent potential trade and environmental conflicts, and to promote the effective enforcement of environmental law.

To read Canada’s response to the Secretariat, please see: