Editor's note: A factual error was made in the story that was first published on Thursday, February 11. The original version stated that Centre Pêche chez Robert received a $5,000 fine. It was brought to the attention of The Eastern Door that the sanction was rather served to Distribution Top Layer inc, the company responsible for the construction.
The Centre de Pêche Chez Robert received $5,000 in fines for conducting construction without a governmental permit, and using contaminated soil to fill their land to quell future flooding.
But the ice fishing company plans to contest the fines.
“The problem with the fine is that it says my company allowed dumping without the government authorization,” said Jean Pépin, the spouse of Centre de Pêche Chez Robert’s owner Shelly Simon, and president of Distribution Top Layer inc, who is also responsible for carrying out the work. “They don’t even talk about the contamination itself, it’s all hypocritical. The reality is that they want to control the territory.”
The ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (MELCC) issued a notice of non-compliance last December after they proceeded to do the soil analysis.
Earlier in October 2020, MELCC environmental officers inspected the site after a complaint was made by the municipality of Oka. At that time, it was claimed that contaminated soil and construction waste were being used over the ice fishing centre to replenish the Lake of Two Mountain banks.
The owner, Shelly Simon, explained in a previous interview with The Eastern Door that the construction was done to level up the yard in order to protect her business from future flooding.
“I never received a copy of the report as owner of the property,” said Simon this week. She inherited the centre from her father when he passed away in 2006 and had seen the devastation caused by the river coming out of its bed.
According to documents obtained by The Eastern Door using the Access to Information law, the ministry found the presence of contaminants in soils disposed of along the Ottawa River, which borders Centre de Pêche Chez Robert. The new soils were identified as construction debris, such as concrete and bricks, from three construction sites in Laval, Montreal and St-Marthe-sur-le-Lac.
“The contaminant’s presence in the environment is likely to affect the human’s health, safety and lives while causing damage or other prejudice to the environment’s quality, ecosystem or living species,” reads the governmental report.
The current level of contamination detected is too low to be threatening to human health - which ultimately is what concerns Pépin.
He pointed out that the monetary sanction is aimed mostly toward the fact that the construction was carried out without prior authorization from the MELCC.
“We don’t need authorization, it’s federal land,” said Pépin. “What they are doing right now, I think it’s that they are trying to take more jurisdiction on Native land by the river.”
However, according to the report, the contaminated soils are rejected in the Ottawa River, which falls under the province’s jurisdiction. As owners of the site and responsible for the operations where construction wastes were dispatched, the government argued that they should have taken greater measures to ensure a safer displacement of the soils, which ultimately resulted in the fine.
Along with contesting the sanction, Pépin said that the analysis’s report contained many mistakes. He confirmed that they are currently proceeding to further soil and water samplings and “will do what needs to be done to make sure there’s no contamination.”
Virginie Ann, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door