UPDATE: Pointe Claire thinks Quebec dropped the ball on PCB's; West Island company given ultimatum to clean up
The Quebec government is trying to get tough with the West Island company that's been illegally storing PCBs on its land, while it's also trying to defend itself over how it handled the case.
Environment minister Yves-François Blanchet warned if the company doesn't comply and clean up the site, adding he doesn't believe they will, the ministry will go in and do it themselves, seizing assets if necessary to pay for it and shutting them down if need be. The company has until midnight tonight to say they'll take action and offer a satisfactory clean up plan. Criminal charges could also be possible, as the case will be handed over to the crown prosecutor's office.
Blanchet explained at a news conference that there was no immediate danger to the public so they didn't alert people about the toxic leak last March at the Pointe Claire site of Reliance Power Equipment. He also suggested it was the public health department's role to inform people if there was a danger.
Pointe Claire mayor Bill McMurchie said he believes someone dropped the ball in communicating information.
"There's for sure a breakdown because the existence of that problem first appeared in the 90's," McMurchie said.
McMurchie and several Pointe Claire city council members turned out at the Reliance site for the midnight deadline.
City councillors tell CJAD complaints were made to the ministry and don't understand why it took so long for the Province to act.
Blanchet said they were satisfied with the assessment of the Montreal Public Health department which said there was no immediate risk.
"The population was not actually being exposed to the contaminated oil by PCBs so they had no particular measures to take to protect themselves," said department epidemiologist Norman King.
The executive committee member responsible for public security, Christian Dubois, also defended their decision not to alert the public, adding they did not want to panic everybody.
"We did not tell the population at the time because nothing really happened. Therewas supposed to be a leak of between 1200 and 1800 litres of contaminated oilbut I remind you, there's over 18,000 litres stored in that location. Our priority is to make sure the population is safeand we have all the means necessary in case of something happening," Dubois said.
Photo: Shuyee Lee