The recycling site is owned by both Gabriel’s brothers, Robert and Gary, and has been causing tension since 2014. (COURTESY VIRGINIE ANN )
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Last Friday, August 28, the ministry of Environment and Climate Change released a notice to withdraw the permit allowing G&R recycling to operate; due, it said, to a breach of the conditions imposed by the Quebec Environment Quality Act.
The press release stated that the recycling site still operates, even though interventions were made in the last few years. Yet no change has been made.
As mentioned in the statement, an order was issued on December 9, 2019, to cease the release of leachate (water that has percolated through a solid and leached out some of the constituents) into the environment.
However, as reported by The Eastern Door last month, the leaking of an unknown black substance was found on August 1, in a stream flowing near the G&R recycling site into the Lake of Two Mountains.
While both the federal and provincial governments conducted analyses, the information regarding the nature of the spill is still kept secret. The Eastern Door tried to contact the Environment Quebec but they didn’t get back in time for publication.
In addition, another un-met request was issued on March 12, demanding that the owners, Gary and Robert Gabriel, clean up and restore the unauthorized use of land. The Eastern Door was able to obtain up-to-date aerial footage of the site showing no sign of the land’s restoration, which is also illegally exceeding the allowable amount.
“Environment Quebec knew about this situation and could have prevented this catastrophic incident a long time ago,” said community member Tracy Cross, who’s been pushing for the issue to be resolved for the past few years.
“What are the long-term effects going to be? How will this impact our people and surrounding municipalities? We will continue to pressure Canada and Quebec for answers and we will not stop until we get them.”
The order not only coincides with the major unknown spill, as pointed out by Cross, but also with mounting pressure from the surrounding municipalities. This summer saw the creation of a private Facebook group “Pour l’avenir de notre environnement,” which reunites preoccupied members of Kanesatake, St. Placide, Oka and Mirabel, looking to find a solution.
Among the group is the administrator, Colette Brouillé, who has owned a residency on Chemin de la Pointe-Aux-Anglais in St. Placide for more than 12 years. She feels like part of her summer was ripped away by the smell coming for the G&R site.
“I’m more or less two kilometres away from it and every night, from Wednesday to Sunday, I’m troubled by the smells,” she said. “It was a horrible summer because of it.”
The site, located on rang StJean, borders the municipalities of St. Placide and Oka. To this date, no cleanup plan has been issued from either the provincial or federal governments, nor from the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake (MCK).
The complexity of land claims makes the whole situation more dire. While in theory, the land belongs to the federal government, within the Oka Letter process, which is the equivalent of a certificate of possession on reserve lands, the G&R brothers have the right to lawful property of the land.
“The governments recommended that MCK remove the Oka Letter for the land but that would set a dangerous precedent, whereas MCK goes and takes something close to a deal,” said Mohawk Council grand chief Serge Otsi Simon.
G&R not only breached the Environment Quebec regulations, but also the ones from the MCK’s permit, issued on October 7, 2014.
“In the resolution, it says that they should not touch the mountain, that it should remain pristine during the lifetime of the project,” said Simon, “and they went up the mountain and made a road and got bricks up there. I don’t know what MCK can do other than revoke the resolution and I don’t know what happens next.”
However, despite agreeing to the problematic situation, Simon explained that in order to withdraw the license, he would need to see more details on the contaminations, along with a clean-up plan.
“Somebody’s gotta pay for this and it’s not gonna be MCK,” said the grand chief, while reiterating that Kanesatake is lacking enforcement capacity to properly deal with the matter.
“The estimate was around $70 to $100 million to clean it up, who’s gonna cover that?”