Local concern over the importation and illegal dumping of contaminated soils has continued to escalate, following a Quebec government announcement that its program to ensure the traceability of trucks carrying contaminated soils has been suspended until at least June 30.
Traces Québec, the computer system designed by the Longueuil-based non-profit, Attestra, to track the movement of contaminated soil in real time, was to have been implemented as of January 1.
Frustrated by the fact contaminated soils have been dumped in the region despite the application of municipal bylaws, local producers introduced a resolution during the Haut-Saint-Laurent syndicate of the Union des Producteurs Agricoles’ annual general meeting on February 17 to strengthen the supervision of backfilling operations. The resolution, which was approved by the local board of directors, notes the significant risk of groundwater contamination from the use of contaminated soils for backfill, as well as the urgent need to protect soil quality, water resources, and the region’s agritourism reputation from these practices.
The local UPA resolved to inform Huntingdon MNA Carole Mallette of the dumping activities taking place, and to demand better control over backfill operations. The syndicate also recommended that the Commission de protection du territoire Agricole du Quebec (CPTAQ) become the decision-making body for all backfilling projects in the agricultural zone, and that the MRC du Haut-Saint-Laurent become the local authority for the issuance of backfill permits instead of individual municipalities.
In response to the resolution, the MRC director general and clerk-treasurer, Pierre Caza, says the regional governing body is taking the matter very seriously. “As evidenced by Regulation 327-2022 aimed at prohibiting backfill activities within protected areas around groundwater catchment structures (adopted by the MRC on September 21, 2022, and effective December 1, 2022), the protection of the territory’s natural resources is a top priority of the MRC,” he states.
Caza says the MRC will be in contact with Mallette’s office in the preparation of a file to be submitted to members of the regional council for discussion. He says the MRC is also hoping to obtain more information on the launch date of the Traces Québec traceability system.
Regarding the local UPA’s request that the MRC take over the issuing of permits for backfilling operations, Caza says the MRC will examine the best practices to be adopted according to the principle of subsidiarity, which aims to ensure decisions regarding social and political issues are made at the local level.
“The objective is not to hinder development, to slow down legally conducted activities, or to transfer responsibilities. It is to find solutions and obtain the means to stop illegal backfilling and protect, among other things, agricultural land and groundwater,” says Caza.