COMMISSION FOR ENVIRONMENTAL COOPERATION
THREE COUNTRIES WORKING TOGETHER TO PROTECT OUR SHARED ENVIRONMENT
Summary of the matter addressed in the submission:
The submission asserts that Canada is failing to effectively enforce the federal Fisheries Act against the City of Montreal in regard to the discharge to the St. Lawrence River of toxic pollutants from the city's Technoparc site, located in Pointe-Saint-Charles. The submitters assert that polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and other pollutants are being discharged from Technoparc, the site of an historic industrial and municipal waste landfill. The City of Montreal now owns the site. The submitters cite the results of samples showing levels of PCBs in the discharges up to 8.5M times the 1987 Canadian Water Quality Guideline of 0.001 micrograms per liter for PCBs and levels at locations beyond the point of discharge of up to 941,000 times the PCB Guideline. The submitters also report that sampling showed elevated levels of other toxic pollutants. Citing information on the adverse effects of the discharges on human health and aquatic resources, the submitters note that Environment Canada has said that PCBs, which the submitters assert are a persistent toxic substance and carcinogen, are "too dangerous to the ecosystem and to humans to permit their release in any quantity." The submitters assert that the Technoparc discharges are an offence under section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act, which prohibits the deposit of a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish or in any place under any conditions where the substance may enter such water. They state that, in response to public complaints, Environment Canada began an investigation into the Technoparc discharges in April 2002 and terminated it in April 2003, stating it could not determine the source of the contamination. They also assert that the City of Montreal's attempts to contain the discharges with booms, to pump out the toxins or to contain the discharges with absorbent pads have been ineffective. The submitters assert Canada's alleged failure to halt the ongoing discharges from Technoparc amounts to a failure to effectively enforce section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act.
Summary of the response provided by the Party:
In its response, Canada describes Environment Canada's responsibilities regarding the administration of s. 36(3) of the Fisheries Act, identifies penalties applicable to violations of s.36(3), and describes the compliance promotion and enforcement programs established by Canada to prevent pollution of waters frequented by fish through compliance with the Fisheries Act. The response contains a brief overview of information held by Environment Canada regarding the area, including information on the area's land use history, a list of environmental studies carried out in the area, information on land ownership, and a description of actions taken by Environment Canada with respect to the Technoparc site since 1998. In its response, Canada explains that as regards compliance promotion, Environment Canada is in talks with the province of Quebec and the City of Montreal to find a comprehensive solution to the problem. In 2002, the City proposed installing a system aimed at stopping substances present in a suspended phase from draining into the Saint Lawrence River. Canada states that Environment Canada expressed concerns about the capacity of such a system to contain substances present in a dissolved phase. The Ministry participated in a study on the effects on fish of substances in a dissolved phase. Canada goes on to state that, regarding enforcement, in October 1998, Environment Canada issued a warning to the City of Montreal because of the poor condition of booms installed by the City to contain the oily substances flowing from the site, and also because the City had ceased its oil pumping activities. Since that time, Canada states that the Ministry has carried out twenty visual inspections of the booms to make sure that the equipment for containing and recovering hydrocarbons is functioning properly. Following a request by some of the Submitters in April 2002, Environment Canada decided to conduct an investigation for violation of s. 36(3) of the Fisheries Act. According to Canada, the investigation succeeded in gathering all the evidence required to establish an offense, except the identity of the person or persons responsible for the deposits, which could not be established because of a lack of evidence showing which site or sites in the area is or are the source of the deposits. As a result, the Ministry decided to end its investigation.
Names and citations of the environmental laws in question:
section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act
Submitter(s):Waterkeeper Alliance, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Société pour Vaincre la Pollution, Environmental Bureau of Investigation, Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper/Save the River!