'There is no reason to be alarmed': PCB contamination in Pointe-Claire hasn't spread, minister says

'There is no reason to be alarmed': PCB contamination in Pointe-Claire hasn't spread, minister says

Quebec is still waiting for a decontamination plan from the new owners of a site in Pointe-Claire where PCBs were illegally stored. However, Environment Minister David Heurtel says residents can rest assured that soil on surrounding properties does not require a cleanup.

"While there is contamination, it's not moving," Heurtel said. "It's contained."

"There is no reason to be alarmed, no reason to be worried."

The Environment Ministry released a private environmental-engineering consultant's 700-page report today, which details the findings.

Cleanup first ordered in 2013

The lengthy saga dates back to 2013, when it was discovered that Reliance Power Equipment had been illegally keeping transformers full of the dangerous chemicals unsupervised in its yard on Hymus Boulevard for 15 years.

PCBs were used in the manufacturing of electrical equipment, heat exchangers, hydraulic systems and several other specialized applications up to the late 1970s, and their storage has been strictly regulated since 1988.

At the time of the discovery of the disintegrating transformers, Reliance was given a week to dispose of the PCBs properly.

A year later, PCBs were found to have leaked into the ground, contaminating it and getting into the City of Pointe-Claire's storm drainage system.

By 2015, the government had spent $3.8 million on the site's initial cleanup, and it took Reliance and its owners to court to try to recoup those costs.

Earlier this year, Reliance and a representative, Theodore Marshall Lewis, were found guilty of multiple infractions of the Environment Quality Act and ordered to pay $586,783.

Deadlines missed, time and again

The Hymus Boulevard site is now owned by Juste Investir.

In February 2016, Heurtel ordered both the original owner, Reliance, and the new owner to analyze neighbouring properties and take corrective measures, if necessary.

The consulting firm Donovan Experts-Conseils was hired by Juste Investir to draw up that report, which was turned over to the Quebec government in February.

The Environment Ministry still has not received a decontamination plan which Juste Investir was ordered last July to come up with by March 20.

Heurtel said Tuesday the company has now gone to court to try and get an extension to that deadline.

"They have asked the courts for an extra delay," Heurtel explained. "We are trying to move as fast as we can."

"We've been collaborating with the mayor of Pointe-Claire, with keeping the mayor and the population informed every step of the way."