May 3, 2004

CEC seeks factual record on claims relating to pollution from Technoparc site

The Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Co-operation (CEC) has recommended that a factual record be developed for the Montreal Technoparc submission (SEM-03-005), filed last August by five Canadian and U.S. environmental nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) (ELW August 25-September 1, 2003).

For nearly 100 years, the current Technoparc site was part of a dump used for industrial and household waste. The city of Montreal now owns the site. In their submission, the NGOs claimed that Canada is failing to effectively enforce s. 36(3) of the federal Fisheries Act, based on their allegation that polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other pollutants are seeping into the Saint Lawrence River from the Technoparc, in violation of the act. (Section 36(3) prohibits the deposit of a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish, unless authorized by regulation.)

In September, the CEC Secretariat asked the federal government to respond to the submission (ELW September 22, 2003). In its response, Canada noted that in October 1998, Environment Canada (EC) issued a warning to the city of Montreal regarding the site. Since then, EC has carried out 20 visual inspections of oil-containment booms at the site to make sure that the equipment for containing and recovering hydrocarbons is functioning properly.

The response further noted that at the request of some of the submitters, EC conducted an investigation to determine whether a violation of Section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act had occurred. According to Canada, the investigation succeeded in gathering enough evidence to establish an offence, except the identity of the person or persons responsible for the deposits. As a result, EC ended its investigation.

In 2002, the city proposed the installation of a system designed to prevent the release to the St Lawrence of substances present in a suspended phase. EC, however, was concerned about the capacity of such a system to contain dissolved-phase substances. The federal response concluded by reporting that EC is in talks with the province of Quebec and the city of Montreal to find a comprehensive solution to the problem.

After reviewing the submission in light of Canada's response, the Secretariat recommended a factual record to develop and present information concerning whether Canada is failing to effectively enforce section 36(3) of the act effectively, as alleged by the submitters. Among the issues to be addressed by the factual record will be:

EC's use of inspections and a warning as enforcement tools in connection with continuing deposits;

the lead-up to, and timing of, Environment Canada's decision to undertake an investigation in response to a request from members of the public;

characteristics and fate of chemical contamination in the sector of the Montreal Technoparc;

effectiveness and cost of oil containment and pumping system(s) in place since the early 1990s;

availability and cost of options for addressing pollution of fish-bearing waters from heterogeneous contaminated sites such as the sector of the Montreal Technoparc;

evidence needed to lay charges for an infraction of section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act in the case of multi-owner contaminated sites such as the Montreal Technoparc;

the ecotoxicological study carried out in 2002, in regard to enforcement of section 36(3);

continuing discussions involving EC, the Quebec Ministry of Environment, the city of Montreal, and owners of others sites in the sector; and

compliance promotion efforts following the decision not to lay charges.

Article 14 of the North American Agreement on Environmental Co-operation (NAAEC) provides that the CEC Secretariat may consider a submission from any person or NGO asserting that a party to the NAAEC is failing to effectively enforce an environmental law. If the Secretariat determines that Article 14(1) criteria are met, it may then call for the development of a factual record on the matter.

The full text of the submission, Canada's response and the Secretariat's factual record recommendations may be viewed on the CEC Web site, More information is also available from the CEC's Submissions on Enforcement Matters Unit, 514/350-4300, FAX 514/350-4314, E-mail

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