Should the economy come before health? Or should health be given priority over the economy? Roin-Noranda residents are struggling with this vintage dilemma.
Posted at 5:00 p.m.
In 2019, Environment Minister Benoit Charett took a firm stand in favor of health. He was responding to the publication of the results of a study on “lead, cadmium and arsenic fertilization” of children in the vicinity of the infamous Horn Smelter.
This is a very noisy report last week as we learned that one of its appendices has been withdrawn as per D’s request.R Arruda.
“Our first concern at the government level is really population health,” said Benoit Charett, who was interviewed by journalist Patrice Roy.
At the time it was not very accurate. Not so today.
Oh, we care in Quebec! But we are also very concerned – many residents of Roin-Noranda, in that regard – about the survival of the foundry in recent years.
To understand this we do not need to think about the disappearance of the famous appendix. Read the report recommendations again.
It is written in black and white: “After prolonged exposure to arsenic concentrations of more than 3 nanograms per cubic meter, we can not guarantee any health effect” regarding the carcinogenic risk. It meets the Quebec standard.
It is also emphasized that “continuous exposure to concentrations greater than 15 nanograms per cubic meter does not protect children from the neurotoxic effects induced by arsenic.”
In 2017, however, Horn Smelter was granted the right to release 33 times more arsenic than the Quebec standard. More precisely 100 nanograms per cubic meter. And in the previous 10 years, it could go up to 200 nanograms per cubic meter.
This factory is literally allowed to pollute. And it is not only in Quebec that people benefit from what is commonly called the “Sanitation Certificate”.
A total of 89 other contaminants are eligible for this priority treatment. The list was provided by the Ministry of Environment Press. For example, there are Rio Tinto Alcon factories in Sagune, several mines and a large number of establishments in the pulp and paper sector throughout the province.
The idea behind this mechanic is not absurd. Horn Foundry received this certification because it worked long before the standard in question was implemented. It is a kind of grandfather rule (“grandfather rule”) intended to force the company to comply with the terms of the procedure.
But recent data on Roin-Noranda population health show that we have fallen into complacency with the desire to show patience.
And ends up with an environmental scandal in our hands.
What would you say if you were told that people in the neighborhood where you live usually die five years earlier than in other parts of Quebec? Is the rate of obstructive pulmonary disease significantly higher in your city? Or is there a significant difference in the incidence of lung cancer and many other health problems? Among others
It should be noted here that no one has established a formal link between these health issues and the Horn Foundry. As the ABTB-Temiskamingue Regional Environment Council recently pointed out, its existence “separates Rouin-Noranda from the rest of Quebec”.
So, if anything needs to be improved, public health officials, in particular, will make recommendations to reduce children’s exposure to environmental pollutants.
For example, we suggest that you do not wipe or vacuum in the presence of your children and wash their toys frequently. To prevent putting sand in their mouths. And the baby’s pacifier should not be placed on the floor.
It’s so scary coming out like this …
The good news in all of this, because there is one, is that Quebec and Foundry are taking a turn. The sanitation certificate expires in November. It will need to be restored.
The whole question is how much pressure will be put on the company to reduce emissions beyond this. And how willing is it to cooperate without threatening to close the foundry?
On this point, it would be good to get the Ruin-Noranda population opinion. Looking at the outcry that has been going on for the past few weeks, we understand that the factory owners should not be given a good lord without consent. But are the majority of citizens willing to accept that the foundry will close its doors?
However, some requests made by the Ruin-Noranda Municipal Council to the Quebec government in mid-June are valid.
We not only want to improve the environmental performance of the foundry, but also better manage the health problems caused by smoke arsenic and other pollutants.
These orders should not be a dead letter. This environmental scandal needs to be handled better than it has been so far.