(Montreal) The City of Rouyn-Noranda is demanding an explanation after the publication of analyzes carried out by the Ministry of the Environment on samples of metal dust on the grounds of a school in Rouyn-Noranda. These show an arsenic content of 4130 milligrams per kilogram in a sample collected in front of the school.
The analyzes were carried out after an incident that occurred a few weeks ago at the Horne Foundry.
On March 7, citizens of Rouyn-Noranda shared photos of “black snow” on social media.
Six days later, the Department of the Environment issued a Notice of Non-Compliance to Glencore, owner of the smelter, for the release of contaminants “under Section 20 of the Water Quality Act. environment (LQE) and for not recovering the contamination”.
Four days after the citizens’ report, on March 11, the ministry conducted analysis of snow samples at various locations in the city.
The results of the analysis, published on Wednesday, show that on the ground in front of the Notre-Dame de Protection primary school, the arsenic content amounts to 4130 milligrams per kilogram, which would be 137 times higher than the limit value of ground arsenic concentration for residential properties in Quebec.
But in a late afternoon statement, Glencore argues “these results cannot be scientifically compared to the prescribed soil limits” because the snow samples were melted to remove water, ” then the residual dust was analyzed in the laboratory, so it was a very concentrated sample of dust.
Glencore also claims that the presence of arsenic in the samples taken is attributable to “a build-up of dust from these processes”, but not to the March 7 wind blowout.
On Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Diane Dallaire indicated that “the results of the dust analyzes which arrive almost two months after the events, and which were first published by Radio-Canada, raise a lot of questions and concerns. in the community.
His administration is asking that Public Health and the Ministry of the Environment explain themselves to the public and demonstrate “how they make sure to protect our citizens”.
Isabelle Fortin-Rondeau, who is part of the group of citizens Mères au front, is offended to note that once again in the case of the foundry, citizens are learning important information from the media rather than from the authorities. .
“When there was the famous wind blowing of the concentrates from the smelter to the grounds around (on March 7th), we felt that no one was alarmed, the School Board was not alarmed, public health was not alarmed and today we learn that it was highly contaminated with nickel, lead and arsenic. »
She denounces “a lack of transparency”, because “it was the Ministry of the Environment that did these analyses, so why is the information reaching us through journalists who have obtained a copy of the analyses? It happened like that too when we learned that houses were going to be destroyed to make a buffer zone. We learned it from the media, it’s really been the modus operandi from the start in this file, we have to run after information, ”lamented the resident of Rouyn-Noranda.
The group Mères au front has also launched a fundraising campaign to analyze samples of contaminated snow taken from different sectors of Rouyn-Noranda.
“We’ve collected samples much further than just around the smelter” and “we’re going to have them analyzed by a private lab.”
To obtain the results of the Department of the Environment’s analyses, one must search in a sub-section of a page called “Responses to requests for access to documents”, which is in a section called “Dissemination of information and protection of personal information” from the website of the Ministry of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks.
La Presse Canadienne asked a regional ministry spokesperson if the ministry had a plan to communicate and explain the March 11 test results to residents of Rouyn-Noranda, but the news agency did not get response Wednesday afternoon.
The results of the analysis of the samples caused the opposition deputies to react on Wednesday morning in the National Assembly.
“The arsenic pollution that is on the snow next to the school, in the schoolyards, where the children of Rouyn-Noranda are playing, it’s very, very serious” and “it’s still something to say to yourself that you have to think before sending a child out to play, because he may come into contact with arsenic when he plays. It is inconceivable that in Quebec we have this situation, ”said solidarity Alejandra Zaga Mendez.
“Can the company be trusted when it reassures people, sends a statement saying, ‘There is no dust, no contaminants in this dust that is stored outside the foundry and that government, Ministry of the Environment tests conducted a few weeks later show high levels of arsenic, cadmium, nickel, lead? So, I am calling for a responsible position on the part of the government, which must really, there, give a boost and ensure that the environment around the foundry is truly healthy for the neighbors”, has for his part commented on the PQ Joël Arseneau.
On March 16, Glencore’s communications and community relations manager, Cindy Caouette, commented on the situation regarding contaminated snow in the vicinity of the foundry during a press briefing: “As soon as we have been advised that there was a possible aeolian washout of copper concentrate, the teams were sent to the field to make a visual observation to try to delimit the area, samples were taken and we are currently in the process of carrying out the collecting snow on which dust is found”.
A week ago, the Ministry of the Environment announced that it had opened a criminal investigation into the Horne Foundry in Rouyn-Noranda, due to metal particles that escaped from these facilities on March 7.
The file should be sent to the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions and according to the regional director of environmental control at the MELCCFP, Annie Cassista, for this type of offense, the law provides for a fine which can reach the sum of 6 million.