Crestview Elementary School property to be decontaminated

By Tracey Arial

Parents at Crestview Elementary were told little about the big decontamination project in their schoolyard until a construction strike delayed the work.

After winning the tender that went out on May 27, 2013, Les Paysagistes Damiano was supposed to finish the million dollar job before school restarted at the end of August.

That didn’t happen. Parents were told that the school wouldn’t be able to open on time by phone and via letter from governing board chair Paul Leal in early August.

“As you know, the school yard at Crestview has been going through the decontamination process over the summer months and we have been getting regular updates on the work being done,” he wrote. “Most of the updates have been positive and on schedule. However, the last update wasn’t so positive as the decontamination process has hit a few snags, particularly with the depth in which the oil has spread. Another factor that has added additional delays to the work being done was the heavy rains we recently had, complicating the decontamination process even further.”

Leal’s letter doesn’t mention the construction strike that school board commissioners were told was the reason for the delay at their August meeting.

Instead of beginning at Crestview in August, 247 children were transported daily to Phoenix Alternative Elementary School. Crestview reopened on Sept. 23. This isn’t the first time that environmental dangers have forced Crestview Elementary School to be cleaned up.

An oil tank was due to be replaced in the summer of 2006 too, and that project got delayed a full year after an unusually-large oil leak was discovered. The same project also found contaminated soil on the grounds of Our Lady of Peace Elementary School, but it was minimal enough to be removed as soon as it was found.

The Crestview oil tank couldn’t be repaired until after Wilfrid Laurier School board officials approved the engagement of Gestenv on Oct. 25, 2006. That $72,982.72 contract covered replacing the leaking oil tank, disposing of the contaminated soil beneath, backfilling and excavating.

In 1999, the school board hired Isolation Algon to remove friable asbestos from the building for $71,586.41.

Last summer’s decontamination and repaving cost more than ten times as much as either of those contracts—a total of $1,057,068.19 with tax.

That’s one third of the entire worth of the property according to Laval’s tax rolls. The circa-1963, two-storey building at 750 Avenue du Devonshire is worth $1.7 million. The lot it sits on—number 1189782—measures 1,098,130 square metres and is evaluated at $1.4 million for a total property worth of $3.1 million.

Approval of this latest clean-up also went through an altogether different process than what occurred in either 2006 or 1999. This time the decision was included within a three-year capital expenditure resolution (#CC-130626-MR-0192), which was approved last May.

According to those minutes, Quebec’s Education Ministry and the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board approved the amount under Quebec’s passif environnemental law, which normally is used to rehabilitate old mining sites.

Crestview does appear on a list of contaminated lands maintained by Quebec’s environment ministry. It is one of two schools in Laval on which cleanups are identified as “not completed.” 

According to that site, the Crestview property is contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in addition to petroleum hydrocarbons C10 to C50. Hydrocarbons usually contain benzene, which is known to cause cancer in humans. Aromatic hydrocarbons are considered risky too because they can be absorbed through the skin or by breathing in addition to taking them in through the digestive system. Buildings located on or near hydrocarbon deposits are at risk for something known as “vapour intrusion,” in which airborne toxins infiltrate the premises causing breathing difficulties, fainting and headaches.

The other “not completed” rehabilitation is located at College Laurier. That site is contaminated with heavy metals.

Leblanc Secondary School, St. Gérard, Collège Laval, Garderie Brins d’Éveil, Le Virage and the Le Virage Annex, Notre Dame de Pontmain, Sainte Cécile, Sainte Marguerite, both St. Gilles pavilions, St. Norbert and four Commission scolaire de Laval buildings (956 Montée Gravel, 3730 Lévesque West, 475 66th Avenue and 800 Place Sauvé) are all on the list too, but they were cleaned up in 2001 and 2002.

Our Lady of Peace Elementary School is not listed on the ministry site.

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