The Gleaner

Ministry stalls action on proven toxic waste dumping

Stronger protection needed to prevent more poisoning of the Rock

Back in 2017, members of Franklin municipality realized – largely because of seeing scores of heavily loaded dump trucks on Route 201 every day – that some local landowners were allowing construction waste and debris to be dumped on their land. The waste was being trucked in from Montreal and other large towns.

Worried that this waste contained toxic materials, the previous Franklin administration did all it could to stop the dumping. Town powers in this matter tend to extend mostly to alerting more powerful agencies, especially the Ministry of the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change. As well, just prior to the onset of the pandemic in 2019, “Franklin managed to get a bylaw against dumping, to set parameters of what was allowed and not allowed, provenance, depth, etc.,” says the former Franklin mayor, Douglas Brooks. Right after that, however, a bulldozer and tractor on the property in question were destroyed by arson. Brooks says he doesn’t know if the bylaw was the reason, but the dumping stopped immediately and did not resume until early this spring.

In 2018, the Ministry of the Environment required the landowners to either pay a large fine (over $83,000) or get independent testing done on the dumped materials. Neither the town nor The Gleaner has been able to ascertain whether this fine was ever paid.

In 2020, Franklin council was still pushing to get an ordinance from the Ministry (based on Article 114 of the Environment Quality Act). Brooks says, “That document is supposed to be the ultimate demand for ceasing [dumping] and testing. The owners are supposed to have to prove land is or isn’t contaminated.” If it is contaminated, the owners then “have to pay a fine and clean it up.”

‘Smelled of gas and oil’

On June 1, 2021, the Ministry finally issued the ordinance the town had waited for. It notes that on March 9 of last year, due to many complaints, the owners, “4507380 Canada (Eric Jodoin)” and dumpers had been ordered to cease to receive “construction wastes and contaminated soils” on eight lots on the elevated area known as “the Rock” or “le Rocher” in Franklin territory. The document also required “remedial cleaning” of the areas to the “satisfaction” of the Ministry.

The document goes on to state that “wastes including wood pieces, wall, plastic, pieces of gypsum and concrete, foam insulation, ceramics, metal, glass, broken asphalt, and fine particles” were found in large areas as far back as 2017 and up to volumes of 5136 square metres.
From July 2019 into 2020, more complaints came in because it appeared that no remediation had been done. At this point, Ministry inspectors reported that the material was so contaminated it “smelled of gas and oil.” They also noted that other dump sites had been secreted under regular soil to hide the actual contents.


Concerned witnesses photographed a line of construction dump trucks on the Rang Dumas in Ormstown on June 10 Those living in the area say the trucks are becoming a common and constant sight on the road PHOTO The Gleaner


Finally, in August of 2019, official samples were taken. Besides lead and manganese, tests disclosed levels above legal limits of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH); of “copper, tin and arsenic,” as well as, in some areas, petro carbons and, in later investigations, mercury. This enabled the Ministry to finally say that proven contaminated material was being dumped. Yet another cessation of activity was demanded, and that “the contaminated soils be taken away and disposed of in a proper, designated site.” However, a drone flyover some months later in 2020 allowed the Ministry to observe that “depressions existing in November 2019” were now filled with new material, to the tune of another 5,120 square metres. Moreover, In October of 2020, more drone photos and advanced interpretation discovered more sites, bringing a further estimated total of nearly 45,000 square metres of toxic waste dumped on the site.

The Ministry got around to looking at whether the water system was affected, and an order was put out in June of 2021 demanding the cessation of dumping, payment for sampling, and especially the installation of three research wells to assess the aquifer plus payment for the analysis of that water within 60 days.

Trucks still coming

Recently, large numbers of dump trucks were once again seen entering the area daily, and new heavy equipment was on the site. The town, now under a new administration headed by Mayor Yves Metras, hired lawyers to get an injunction against the owner of that property on the 201. Dumping ceased for a time on that site, but as of June 10 trucks are entering another address nearby, on the Rang Dumas.

At Franklin’s monthly meeting on June 6, Director General Simon St. Michel said, “If any effort is made to dump now, the police will be called and the owner and/or the truck drivers arrested.” However, injunctions are temporary. Mayor Metras was visibly “upset and distressed” about how long it’s taken for the Ministry to act upon its mandate to protect soils and water. He is desperate to get results and says now they’re after “core samples drilled down into the piles, because [the dumpers] sometimes hide what they’ve brought in under a layer of normal soil.”

The wells serving Ormstown

William (Blad) Hansen, a naturalist living on Covey Hill with degrees in science and geology, says the Rock has been “extensively mapped, and there are more than a dozen major scientific studies by the Ministry, the National Water Research Institute, etc. to look at water sinks, aquifer recharge, and areas susceptible to pollution. They have specifically designated that the Rock is a prime area for the recharging of the Chateauguay Valley aquifer, which is already known to be one of the most significant bodies of underground water available.” He says that “The most immediate problem is the wells serving Ormstown at the northern end. The area for that water input has been covered over with toxins. And the ministry, which knows this and created all these reports, has for some reason failed to act promptly to actually protect it.”

Ormstown mayor Christine McAleer has expressed concern with this ongoing situation so close to the water intake. “As a precautionary measure, we are in the process of hiring a specialized and independent company to do a soil analysis, to ensure there is no risk of contamination of our wells and mandatory perimeters,” she says. “Should the analysis demonstrate that there is a risk of contamination or public health issues, severe measures will be taken against any parties involved.”

Brooks, who started the process that Mayor Metras continues to struggle with, says, “I don’t know why the Ministry doesn’t move fast enough to make a difference,” but wonders if the dumpers and landowners “know that every four years things change in municipalities, and at the Ministry, too. So, they just outwait the demands.”

Hansen says there’s more to it. “Successive Quebec governments have starved, understaffed, and ignored the magnitude of the many environmental crises that are arriving simultaneously, and when it comes to timely action, the current government is only amplifying this trend.”

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