Horne Smelter: Disgruntled Citizens Challenge Department of Environment | Arsenic Rouyn-Noranda

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Horne Foundry: Disgruntled Citizens Challenge the Ministry of the Environment | Arsenic Rouyn-Noranda

The company wants to reduce its arsenic emissions to 15 nanograms per cubic meter of air within five years, which is not unanimous.

From left to right: Miguel Levasseur, independent animator, Hélène Proteau, assistant deputy minister responsible for coordinating government action on the Horne Foundry file, Marc Croteau, deputy minister at the MELCC, Jean Bissonnette, assistant deputy minister environmental assessments and authorizations at the MELCC, Cynthia Claveau, director of analysis and expertise for Abitibi-Témiscamingue and Nord-du-Québec for the MELCC

All the citizens of Rouyn-Noranda who spoke at the first face-to-face information session organized by the Ministry of the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change (MELCC) underlined their dissatisfaction with the plan proposed by the Horne Foundry.

According to the representatives of the MELCC, the objective of the exercise is to take note of the opinions and concerns of the population in order to then determine the environmental requirements that Quebec will impose on Glencore within the framework of the next ministerial authorization, expected in November. /p>

Frustration was felt on several occasions, as some citizens took advantage of their time on the microphone to signal their dissatisfaction with the government's management of this file.

“We no longer have confidence, not only in the company, but also in our institutions. There is no political will, there is figure skating. »

— Marthe Julien, citizen of Rouyn-Noranda

Five years ago I discovered that I was addicted to heavy metals. I have been in treatment for years. I did not hear you talk about the importance of caring for the population of Rouyn-Noranda, said Julie Bonapace, former resident of Rouyn-Noranda.

Marthe Julien was one of many concerned citizens who spoke during the meeting with the ministry on Tuesday.

Approximately 150 people attended the question periods, held in the afternoon and evening. The department has received 1,210 questionnaires and more than 45 briefs since the start of the process on September 6.

These data will be used to paint an overall picture of the situation, but do not represent a referendum on the closure of the smelter, according to the Deputy Minister of the Environment, Marc Croteau.

The Horne Foundry only paid $200,000 in annual duties to the province in 2021.

At the start of At the information session, representatives of the ministry presented the broad outlines of the Industrial Waste Reduction Program (PRRI), established by the Quebec government in 1988.

This program provides, among other things, for the imposition of annual fees on holders of an industrial clean-up certificate, such as the Horne Foundry.

The amount collected by the government each year, is calculated in particular on the basis of the discharges of contaminants into the water and the air, as well as the mine tailings deposited in an accumulation area, during the year for which the duties are payable.

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Do we know how much the foundry is paying to poison us? launched Marta Saenz de la Calzada, a resident of Rouyn-Noranda.

According to ministry officials, this amount was around $200,000 in 2021, which sparked a flurry of reactions from the audience.

That's not a lot for a company that makes billions in profits every year. It's very frustrating to hear that, retorted Marta Saenz de la Calzada, still at the microphone.

Faced with the many heartfelt cries from the dozens of citizens present, Deputy Minister Marc Croteau undertook to submit the recommendation from the Ministry of the Environment by the scheduled date, November 20.

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“We will do everything to submit the recommendation within the November deadline, because a decision must be made. To continue it would be unhealthy, so I want to tell you that you have my commitment. »

— Marc Croteau, Deputy Minister of the Environment

The participants also questioned the Deputy Minister on several occasions about the inputs processed by the Horne Foundry. The latter affirms that the question will be studied by the ministry, following numerous requests from Hélène Proteau, assistant deputy minister and responsible for coordinating government action in this file.

Ms. Proteau pushes a lot for us to analyze everything. It's complicated, but it's not impossible. In the 89 sanitation certificates, there is very little control over the inputs, but more over the contaminants emitted, specifies M Croteau.

The Deputy Minister specifies that he It is difficult to monitor the inputs handled by an industry. You don't have an inspector sitting in front of the front door every day, he explains.

Protesters welcomed François Legault's caravan to Rouyn-Noranda during the election campaign .

The cleavage, the split, the division of the community, it is not healthy, replied Deputy Minister Croteau to a citizen mentioning the fact that it is sometimes difficult to speak publicly, for fear of reprisals.

Several agreed in the same direction during the evening, evoking an increasingly visible division within the population.

Staifany Gonthier, citizen and spokesperson for a group of 75 entrepreneurs from Rouyn-Noranda, co-signed a manifesto on Sunday demanding in particular the achievement of the Quebec standard of three nanograms of arsenic per cubic meter of air as soon as the next ministerial authorization.

Of 75 small and medium-sized companies, only 39 want to publicly disagree with Glencore's plan. The others are afraid of the consequences, she explains.

Laurie Paquin, who has lived in Rouyn-Noranda since 2016 after studying there, was particularly emotional when she shared his concerns.

This summer, I felt betrayed when I learned that we were more at risk of developing cancer and that our children could be born prematurely, she says, visibly moved.

She concluded her testimony by denouncing the division created by the government, wanting that the population must choose at what level they want to be polluted.

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