Is there toxic waste in LaSalle?

By Tracey Arial

LaSalle resident Joseph Pugliese spent the summer trying to figure out what’s going on in the industrial land between Senkus, Irwin, Newman and St. Patrick. The entire industrial region was once the site of a factory that turned coal into coke. It then became the centre of chemical manufacturing for LaSalle before hosting the only landfill that accepted PCBs in Canada.

Pugliese is worried that contamination at the site may have caused the stage 4 cancer he endured five years ago.

He’s written letters to the borough of LaSalle. He’s asked multiple questions at borough and city council meetings. He’s even submitted access-to-information requests to Environment Canada. Everything he hears worries him more.

“They keep telling me that there’s no toxic waste anywhere in LaSalle,” said Pugliese. “Then I read about all the contaminated materials they’ve been dumping, treating and burying here and I don’t believe them. If they had told me that they know it’s here, but it’s being stored properly and people are keeping an eye on it, I could stop worrying. What are their denials hiding?”

To describe his concerns, Pugliese took  The Suburban on a tour last month.

Together, we wandered around looking at industrial land that lies north of the Carrefour and Complexe Angrignon shopping malls. The territory was established in 1877 as lots 1013 and 1016 in the Lachine Parish.

Then we visited the three sites that worry him most: the Solutia site, the Cintec site and a third site that he says might be owned by the borough of LaSalle.

Much of the area lies empty in August, although the Angrignon side gets very busy in winter. Trucks stream through this entrance multiple times daily to drop off snow cleared from streets.


The snow clearing site lies just north of Cintec Environement Inc. The company currently owns two lots: a 93,456.30 sq. metre site (lot 1,449,477) on Angrignon and a 48,076.40 square-metre lot 1,449,496 on Irwin. The second site also contains a building dating from 1970.

Cintec began life as a landfill operator in 1989.

Six years later, a partnership with the U.S.-based ART enabled it to move into soil remediation under a research project sponsored by the City of Montreal, the Province of Quebec and the Ministry of the Environment. Their role was to figure out how to remove copper, lead, zinc, oil, grease and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) from soil. They initially treated contaminated waste from seven government-owned lands. Residuals and soils that could not be properly washed were buried in the landfill next to the plant.

Within 10 years, the company’s technical expertise had grown so much, they became known as Canada’s main innovator at cleaning up polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from both soil and sludge. They teamed up with a French firm to create a new entity, Cintec Tredi Inc., to build a PCB incinerator in Iqaluit. It isn’t clear what happened with that project, but Cintec Tredi Inc. dissolved seven years ago.

Cintec Environement Inc.’s reputation for handling hazardous waste continued to grow. They began seeking projects in Alaska, Cambodia and El Salvador. In 2005, Cintec even funded a successful study to remove PCBs from the Sydney Tar Sands using a system known as “circulating fluidized bed combustion (CFBC).”

What they do is difficult, however, and sites like theirs need constant vigilance.

Yet word on the street is that Cintec’s landfill site will be full by next year. Pugliese is worried that once Cintec caps its landfill, no one will verify that its membrane remains intact. No one whom he’s contacted has reassured him.

The information also hasn’t yet been confirmed. What is known is that the landbase controlled by Cintec has been shrinking since 2002. On Nov. 26, 2002 it was divided to create two additional lots: 2,745,019 and 3,226,608. Two years later, it was further divided to create lot 3,269,985, which is the Solutia property that Montreal plans to buy and decontaminate for a new biomethanation plant once the one in East Montreal is full.

Abandoned chemical plant

The 42,476.8 square-metre property on St. Patrick to the east of Newman just south of the Lachine Canal is currently owned by New Brunswick-based Solutia Canada Inc. The company also operates a local office at Riocan Holdings Quebec Inc., 7475 Newman Blvd., which is the same office as the former Cintec Tredi Inc.

Solutia Canada is an affiliate of Solutia Inc., a global chemical manufacturer of various fluids, films and nylons, including those used for water treatment, heat transfer and aviation hydraulics.

Prior to Sept. 1, 1997, Solutia was a wholly-owned subsidiary of the company then known as Monsanto. At that time, Monsanto ran three types of business: agricultural, pharmaceutical and chemical. In 2000, the business split, with only the agricultural portion functioning under the Monsanto name. The pharmaceutical portion became Pharmacia Corporation and today functions as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pfizer Inc.

The chemical manufacturing business became Solutia Inc. On Dec. 17, 2003, Solutia Inc and 14 U.S. subsidiaries filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in the United States, a process that took five years. Subsidiaries outside of the U.S. were not included in the reorganization, but the St. Patrick site emptied around that time.

Decontaminating the site could be tricky, and is sure to be expensive. A localization certificate that Alain Létourneau completed for the public consultation about the biomethanization project says that the property contains a Gaz Métropolitan servitude, but:

“Ledit emplacement est sujet à des avis de contamination tel qu’établis aux termes des actes numeros 15,565,730 and 17,167,501.” (Servitude placement is subject to a contamination warning as dictated by the act number 15,565,730 and 17,167,501).

The site also poses a safety risk because its gate is rarely locked. Anyone can freely wander through the site past two metal towers, a steel storage container and some deep grated and open cavities or pits. Parts on the metal towers and tubing next to them are lined with an asbestos-like covering. A few steel drums full of an unknown liquid are beginning to rust.

We also saw several chimneys jutting out from within in the soil on the north edge of the territory. It wasn’t clear whether these chimneys were actually located on the Solutia lot or on the adjacent lot #1,449,471 that surrounds it on the north and east sides.

LaSalle borough site?

Pugliese says he wonders whether that third site contains a sunken clay container where the borough of LaSalle buried the toxic waste found on the old municipal dump between Shevchenko, Belec, Bouvier and Bourdeau in 1985.

The municipal dump operated between 1954 until 1959, until it was filled-in. Some 50 houses were then built on top of it.

In the early 1980s, some of the residents in the houses began complaining of headaches and other illnesses. After tests were done, many of the houses had to be torn down so that the soil could be hauled away for cleaning. That was 1986.

The soil was then sealed in a clay container guaranteed to last for 25 years. The container was buried somewhere on the old coke property. Is it still there? Was it removed from the soil and placed in Cintec’s main landfill? Those are just some of the many questions Pugliese is trying to answer.

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