The Montreal Technoparc site is known as one of Quebec’s largest hazardous waste sites. It is situated on the St. Lawrence River between the Champlain and Victoria Street bridges – eight city blocks from Notre Dame Cathedral in Old Montreal. It can be reached via the Montreal Port Authority parking lot and a walk to the river, less than 100 metres away.
Historically, the site was used as a dump for city wastes in the 1870s. By the 1960s, industrial waste constituted a major portion of all the wastes being dumped at the site. The area was then covered with fill and paved to create parking lots for Expo ‘67. In 1988, the Montreal Technoparc was established and the hazardous waste site on the St. Lawrence River was turned into an industrial park, with two high-tech companies – Teleglobe and Bell Mobility – operating there. A few other development projects have also been proposed, such as a theme park, a golf course, and a recreational and tourist centre; until the site has been cleaned up the success of any project on the site is in doubt.
As early as 1988, Daniel Green of the Montreal-based “Sociéte pour Vaincre la Pollution” noticed that the site was discharging into the St. Lawrence River. Despite his efforts over the next decade to get the City of Montreal to take action to stop the discharges into the river, no effective remedial actions were taken. In the fall of 2000, Daniel Green and Environmental Bureau of Investigation executive director, Mark Mattson, began a full investigation of the site.
On October 4, 2000, October 26, 2000, November 21, 2000, and January 21, 2002, EBI investigators took samples from the river of Technoparc discharges. These samples were taken to laboratories in Kingston and Burlington, Ontario for analysis. Pictures and video of the site were recorded on each date. In February 2001, the CBC’s Fifth Estate aired a program that followed EBI investigators to the site and showed toxins discharging from the Technoparc. A Quebec Ministry of Environment official also appeared on the show, noting EBI’s complaints that lab analysis of the toxins revealed high levels of PCBs and PAHs and that the toxic discharges should be stopped. The Quebec ministry official took pictures of the discharges.
In January 2002, EBI investigators and Daniel Green again visited the Technoparc site. After spotting a continuous 400-metre long oil slick discharging from the site, the investigators called Environment Canada and reported the contamination.
On February 20, 2002, biologist David Dillenbeck was called to the Technoparc site at the request of EBI. Mr.Dillenbeck was an Ontario MOE Regional Biologist for more than 20 years and has conducted numerous scientific investigations and testified in many trials as an expert witness. Mr. Dillenbeck prepared a report dated April 4, 2002 based on his visit to the site and EBI’s sample analysis, photos, videos and notes.
On his visit to the site on February 20, 2002, Mr Dillenbeck observed:
. . . patches of multi-coloured sheen on the surface of the St. Lawrence River adjacent to the northerly shore, in the vicinity of the Victoria Bridge. This sheen had the same appearance as the sheen that develops when oil, gasoline or other petroleum products are deposited on the surface of water. Individual patches were usually visible for only a short period of time. A patch would usually appear first as a small, intensely coloured disc of one centimetre or less in diameter; this disc would then expand and the multi-colours would dissipate and be visible over an area of anywhere from one to several square metres. The total time that elapsed between the first appearance and the disappearance of a patch was typically thirty seconds or less.
With regard to the placement of booms in the St. Lawrence River – apparently to contain the discharges from the site – Mr. Dillenbeck noted the following:
The purpose of the booms seems to have been to contain a black, tarry substance that we observed as variously sized blobs emerging from between and under the stones at the water’s edge within the boomed areas. However, this purpose was being totally defeated by the velocity of the water flowing along the northerly shore of the St. Lawrence River at this location. I estimated the velocity to have been approximately 1 to 2 metres per second at the time. This velocity produced very turbulent and rough water adjacent to and within the boomed areas. The resultant wave action carried the blobs away from the water’s edge, where they became suspended in the water column. The turbulent water was observed carrying the blobs over and under the booms and into the river proper. If one of these blobs reached the surface of the water, it would typically flatten and quickly begin to give rise to the multi-coloured sheen observed on the surface of the river.
Another ineffective method that seems to have been used by authorities to contain the discharges from the site were the absorbent pads. Mr. Dillenbeck noted:
Several absorbent pads were observed floating on the surface of the water within the upstream boomed area. All of these pads were totally soaked with black material. An oily sheen, very similar to that described previously, was observed to be emanating almost continuously from these pads. The sheen would dissipate within the boomed area, then be carried by wave action from the boomed area into the river and ultimately be carried downstream.
Regarding the sampling done by EBI investigators, Mr. Dillenbeck noted that both PCB and PAH concentrations were found in the River at levels significantly above regulatory limits set for the protection of aquatic life.
With regard to the PCBs, Mr. Dillenbeck noted:
An abundance of national and international scientific studies have concluded that polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are highly toxic, persistent and bioaccumulative substances. Environment Canada identifies PCBs as a persistent toxic substance and as such, is “too dangerous to the ecosystem and to humans to permit their release in any quantity.A water sample collected at T-3, inside the boom at the water’s edge, on January 20, 2002 was reported to contain Total PCBs at a concentration of 8,530.0 ug/L. This concentration exceeds the concentration of 0.001 ug/L by 8,530,000 times.
The sediment sample collected at T-1 on October 26, 2000 was reported to contain Total PCBs at a concentration of 6.4 ug/g (or 6.4 ppm, which is equivalent to 6,400 ppb). This concentration exceeds the Probable Effect Level (PEL) of the Canadian Sediment Quality Guideline for the Protection of Aquatic Life – Freshwater for Total PCBs of 277 ug/kg (or 277 ppb) by more than 20 times. This is particularly significant when combined with the fact that the shoreline at this location is continuously scoured by the high velocity flow in the St. Lawrence River here.
This data indicates that PCBs are present in the water and sediments of St. Lawrence River adjacent to the Montreal Technoparc site, both inside and outside the boom. Furthermore, the concentrations of Total PCBs reported at this location are, at the very least, hundreds of times in excess of the generally accepted guideline for the protection of freshwater aquatic life.
Finally, Mr Dillenbeck concluded that:
. . . it is my opinion that numerous hazardous substances, including PCBs, PAHs and petroleum hydrocarbons, are being discharged to the St. Lawrence River adjacent to the Montreal Technoparc (a former landfill site), which is water that is frequented by fish. These hazardous substances are present in the water and sediments of the St. Lawrence River at concentrations that are well in excess of established Provincial, Federal and International guidelines. These hazardous substances are deleterious to fish and other aquatic biota and will cause or are likely to cause the impairment of the quality of the natural environment for any use that can be made of it. Remedial measures must be taken to eliminate this discharge and to protect and upgrade the water quality of the St. Lawrence River.
The evidence obtained by EBI investigators and contained in this brief establishes that from October 2000 to February 2002, the Technoparc site has been continually contaminating the St. Lawrence River, a fish-bearing river, and has resulted in the impairment of the quality of the waterway. Further, the investigation reveals that the City of Montreal has known about the discharges for many years and that all measures taken to contain the discharges have been woefully inadequate.