Neighbourhood council raises burning questions about incinerator
Ruby Pratka, Local Journalism Initiative reporter
The Vieux-Limoilou neighbourhood council is calling for further studies into the impact of the municipal incinerator following the release of a sobering report by a local chemist.
The report by Patrick Ferland, released in early May and summarized in the May 18 edition of the QCT, raised questions about the methods used by the Quebec environment ministry to evaluate the levels of contaminants emitted by the incinerator.
For Raymond Poirier, president of the Vieux-Limoilou neighbourhood council, the report raises many questions.
“More rigorous air quality studies need to be done, and they needed to be done yes- terday,” Poirier said. “We have perennial air quality issues with a variety of pollutants, coming from three major sources – the highways, the port and the incinerator. These sources are perpetuating a problematic situation in Limoilou, and in other parts of the city, depend- ing on which way the wind blows.” He is waiting for two local studies – Mon environnement, ma santé, commissioned by the Direction de la santé publique de la Capitale-Nationale, and Limoil’air, funded by the Caisse Desjardins de Limoilou and organized by the Vieux- Limoilou, Maizerets and Lairet councils – to provide additional data.
He added that the decision, made in the early 1970s, to locate the municipal incinerator in a densely populated area of Lower Town was a “historic error made for reasons that escape me.” He’s also worried that government decisions made since then – such as the province’s decision to raise the allowable level of nickel in the atmosphere over the objections of the Ville de Québec – send the wrong message: “We look at polluters exceeding allowable norms and we say, ‘Go ahead, make more!’”
Poirier’s resolution, tabled by the neighbourhood council on May 19, cites Ferland’s findings and the “marked inquietude” of the population. It asks the city administration to respond to Ferland’s concerns and acquire equipment that allows for continuous sampling of incinerator emissions, and encourages waste reduction as a way to reduce the city’s reliance on the facility.
Mathieu Caron, a contractor specializing in eco-friendly con- struction, has lived in Limoilou for 10 years and can see the incinerator through his front window. He said doctors have said the pollution contributes to his son’s asthma and skin problems. “We know our air quality isn’t that great – the problems with the port, the incinerator and the White Birch and Nordic Paper [plants] all compound each other, and we have a historically vulnerable, lower-income population,” he said. “I pay property taxes four times a year and sometimes Ibitemylip–shouldwebe paying all this money without a guarantee of air quality?”
City councillor for Limoilou Jackie Smith said she was “proud” of Limoilou residents for raising concerns about the incinerator. “The port is under federal jurisdiction, highways and regulations like the nickel norm are provincial, but the incinerator is ours,” she said. “We don’t know what the incinerator is shooting out because … we test to see if the chimneys are working, rather than really testing the surrounding air quality.”
“The only measurements we’re currently taking are in the chimneys,” added Coun. Claude Villeneuve, who represents the neighbouring district of Lairet. “We need to have many more testing stations to do more analysis.” Like Poirier, he is eager to see data from the two studies.
Smith and Villeneuve called on both the city and individuals to redouble their efforts to reduce waste. “In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be a need for the incinerator because there’d be no waste to burn,” Smith said.
Caron, who has lobbied the provincial government, along with other local parents, to walk back changes to nickel norms, also emphasizes the importance of individual action and education. “I’ve seen with my own eyes a person who has complained about the incinerator throw a car battery in the garbage,” he said. “If a person living within sight of the incinerator doesn’t make that connection, it will be harder for a person in Charlesbourg.”
Mayor Bruno Marchand has not commented on the Ferland report. Earlier this month, he told Radio-Canada that he believed the city needed to work with the port and the province to install additional air quality monitoring stations.