Clean-up underway at Allion LaSalle

By Tracey Arial

Contaminated sand was removed, July 9, from the courtyard of the Allion side of a school on 9th Avenue, in LaSalle. The other side of the building houses LaSalle Community Comprehensive High School.

The removal took place after local resident Joseph Pugliese called the Lester B. Pearson School Board, the borough of LaSalle and the environment ministry. None of them took his concerns seriously, he said, so he called the police and then, at 2 a.m., Wednesday, the fire department.

With the smell of hydrocarbons and all the liquid in the vicinity, it’s clear that something has to be done,” said Pugliese six hours later. “This is right next to a park and there are children playing here. Some of the liquid is heading for the sewers; I bet the water table is contaminated too.”

Pugliese has been asking about toxins in the school since last September because Allion appears with two other LaSalle schools on the Quebec environment ministry’s list of contaminated properties. The list names the building by its former LaSalle Catholic High School moniker and states that Hydrocarbons C10 and C50 exist on the site. Despite a potential health risk to students, no public explanation of the contamination occurred when the Allion primary school moved to the building in 2007. K.F. Construction Inc. received $1,077,077 in March 2007, to handle any construction necessary to prepare the building for the new students.

The price of the current project isn’t quite so clear in LBPSB minutes. On May 23, 2014, the school board awarded Construction Richard A. Germano $124,000 for “exterior caulking, windows and fiber management” plus the installation of acoustic panels in the Allion gymnasium. The same minutes show another $4.9 million awarded to Les services EXP for an eco-energy project in six different unspecified locations. Riverview Elementary in Verdun also has a clean-up project happening this summer to remove contamination from when the property held a plant that made coke for steel smelting.

In LaSalle, the chemical smell was obvious near Allion late Tuesday. Pugliese smelled it as he drove by the school, but it took him a while to figure out where the fumes were coming from. The tarp-covered sand and liquid was stored in the back of the school right next to the park. When he saw the liquid running free in the pouring rain, he panicked and started calling everyone he thought could help solve the problem, including several members of the media. By early Wednesday morning, construction employees were spreading sand over the leaking liquid to contain it.

School officials say that the liquid-filled sand came from contaminated oil tanks removed from the school. The gas-like smell permeated the air for about three blocks around the site. There was also a lot of oil on the ground in the school yard. Employees from Constructions PRV from Vaudreuil-Dorion were actively containing the leak with bags of a clumping material and by spreading sand on the stained pavement shortly after 7:30 in the morning. One said they were waiting for a larger truck to remove the sand.

Meanwhile, officials from the Lester B. Pearson School board and the borough began arriving onsite to see whether more action should be taken.

The Montreal Fire Department and the City of Montreal’s Service de l’Environnement were both called in and judged the situation safe for the environment and the public,” said Pierre Dupuis, LaSalle’s public affairs director and clerk. “I remind you that the borough is NOT responsible for environmental issues. However, the borough is always concerned with the safety of people on its public domain. In this respect, we trust our colleagues at the Fire Dept and the Service de l’environnement. Should they have raised any doubt concerning the environment around Allion School, the borough would have taken action, for instance closing Raymond Park to the public for a while. But the borough was never asked to take any action of that nature either by the fire department or the Service de l’environnement.”

The work finished shortly after noon. A neighbour who lives on 9th Avenue near the building was relieved to see the project coming to an end.

It’s been loud and noisy for at least two weeks now,” said the woman, who wanted to remain anonymous. “I like sitting outside and it’s been really impossible. There’s been noise from construction for at least two weeks now.”

The noise might be less intense in the coming weeks, but the work is only half done. A second contractor, RSR Environment Inc., has already prepared the site for asbestos removal from the walls. That project begins in the next few days.

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