Home News Company should pay for cleanup, Council chief says

Company should pay for cleanup, Council chief says

On Tuesday, February 27, community members were invited to volunteer their time filling sand bags that were used to dam up sections of the Suzanne River impacted by the diesel spill. Courtesy Kahnawake Environment Protection Office (KEPO)

The company responsible for the recent diesel spill in Chateauguay will be held accountable for its actions, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) chief Cody Diabo promised community members at a meeting earlier this Monday, saying he wants to see the company foot the bill for the cleanup to date in Kahnawake. 

“We’re fully prepared to take it to the very end in that sense, they’re not going to be let off the hook. This was a major catastrophe,” Diabo told over 60 attendees who turned out to the community meeting. 

While the MCK has yet to share the name of the company publicly, Quebec’s environmental ministry has since confirmed its name is “La Petroliere N & R Sol Inc.” It’s located at 2325 Ford Boulevard, close to the Kahnawake border.  

It was a tense evening Monday, with community members sharing fears about how the pollution from the spill in neighbouring Chateauguay could impact their farm animals, drinking water, and maple trees in the area. 

The presence of diesel in the community in a creek and the river near Zachary Road was first discovered by the Kahnawake Environmental Protection Office (KEPO) on Friday, February 9, after a complaint came in from a resident about the odour of diesel. A cleanup led by KEPO has been underway ever since. Well over $100,000 has been spent thus far on it, Diabo told The Eastern Door

“We’re not going to let anything like the cost dictate what our response is going to be. We’re going to do what is best,” KEPO director Benjamin Green-Stacey told community members Monday night.

The meeting then also provided an opportunity for KEPO to set the record straight on what’s known so far about the spill. 

The environmental office maintains the diesel found in Kahnawake resulted from a spill in Chateauguay that first happened on February 1. It happened at an industrial site on Ford Boulevard after attempts were made to remove an aging tanker truck there, Green-Stacey said, spreading diesel into a ditch by the Suzanne River. 

Courtesy Kahnawake Marina Facebook page

It’s still uncertain how much was spilled, he said, adding the company involved has yet to provide a clear answer. Over 2,000 litres of diesel fuel has been pumped from the river and the affected creek since the clean-up began on February 9, however,  Green-Stacey said.

Quebec’s environmental ministry told The Eastern Door the province was only notified about the spill 11 days after, on February 12, the same time Kahnawake began notifying authorities about the situation. The following day the province sent workers on site to remove the tanker truck. 

Though Chateauguay’s fire department responded on February 1, it didn’t notify the province’s environmental emergency team at the time, Quebec spokesperson Ghizlane Behdaoui said. 

Chateauguay mayor Éric Allard said the province wasn’t notified earlier by their authorities because at the time it was only believed to constitute a limited spill. 

“This situation is shocking and terrible both for our residents and those of Kahnawake, and for the environment,” Allard said. “We’re taking this very seriously.”

Unfortunately an investigation into exactly what happened has been complicated by the fact that the owner of the tanker truck that spilled passed away last weekend, the mayor said. He added it’s still not known whether this spill is related to the situation in Kahnawake.

“We don’t believe it’s related,” Allard said.

Diabo said he’s relieved to see how Quebec’s environmental ministry has responded so far, saying containment booms were installed at the site in Chateauguay this weekend to absorb the pollutant, he said.

“They set up a command centre and they have crews working around the clock,” Diabo said.

Continued sampling in Kahnawake has also since confirmed diesel made its way to a beaver dam in an area near Route 207, Tyler Moulton, KEPO’s lead on aquatic habitats, said at the meeting Monday. Sampling was also carried out to see if the diesel had reached the seaway, he said, which has fortunately yet to be impacted.

Over the week, community members also stepped up to volunteer their time filling 600 sand bags that KEPO used to dam up parts of the river. 

Investigation ongoing

Though KEPO is confident the diesel in Kahnawake resulted from the spill on February 1, Green-Stacey was careful to add at the meeting that it’s still just a theory. As of this week, Quebec’s environmental ministry also said it’s still working to investigate whether the two events are linked. 

Diabo told The Eastern Door it’s unacceptable the company didn’t immediately reach out to Kahnawake when the spill happened on February 1. Quebec has also stepped up to pressure the company to take action, he said.

“They’ve also sent a legal notice to the business stating they’re responsible for the cleanup, and they’re sending different companies there to provide proposals as to what kind of remediation is going to happen in that area,” Diabo said. 

A heating oil company by a similar name, Thermopompes N R Sol, also used to run out of the address where the spill happened until it moved down the street in 2017, said Alain Parisien, one of its co-owners. 

The reason their business shares a similar name is because they were both founded by the same owner in the 1990s, who later sold the companies. The petroleum company that stayed at 2325 Ford Boulevard is out of business, Parisien said. A tanker truck however remained there long after its shuttering, he said.

miriam@easterndoor.com

This article was originally published in print on March 1 in issue 33.09 of The Eastern Door.

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Miriam Lafontaine is a reporter with the Eastern Door. Her work has appeared in Le Devoir, CBC Montreal, CBC New Brunswick as well as the Toronto Star.

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Miriam Lafontaine is a reporter with the Eastern Door. Her work has appeared in Le Devoir, CBC Montreal, CBC New Brunswick as well as the Toronto Star.