Q: I travel by RTL bus often on the Bonaventure Expressway.
For more than a year and a half, I have noticed Construction Pomerleau doing some work along the water. It seems they are drilling along the edge, but nothing changes.
What are they doing there?
A: The construction you see is actually not construction at all. In fact, Pomerleau is carrying out work to clean up a toxic pollution site older than the country itself. The area where Pomerleau is working used to be a huge swamp used by local industry for decades as a waste dump.
One of the most active companies was Canadian National Railway, which had a rail yard in the area until 2006, and used it to repair and refuel diesel trains from the 1950s to the 1980s. During that time, a broken fuel pipeline poured diesel into the water table for years, even decades, a 2008 report by the Commission on Environmental Cooperation said.
The area also had a tank and munitions factory during the Second World War. A municipal landfill operated on the site for a century, starting in the 1850s, and a private dump was also located there.
“It is estimated that the central portion of Technoparc contains (4 to 8) million litres of diesel fuel mixed with other substances, enough to fill about three Olympic-size swimming pools,” the report stated. “The Technoparc contains an estimated one to two tonnes of PCBs. The diesel fuel, acting as a solvent, has accelerated the release of PCBs contained in the waste (e.g., old transformers) buried in this area.”
The fuels and heavy metals didn’t pose a problem until about 1990, when they began leaking into the St. Lawrence River.
Last year, the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Inc., the federal corporation that manages the Bonaventure Expressway, announced it will embark on two separate projects to treat groundwater and stop it from flowing into the river. The first — a $13-million project split evenly with the provincial government — involves the construction of 33 wells going about 15 metres below the surface to intercept groundwater as it flows under the spot where an old municipal dump lay near the river on the west section of the site, close to the bridge to Nuns’ Island, off Highway 15. Officials estimate this phase will take at least 15 years.
That water will be diverted to a treatment plant to be built along the shore and then sent back into the river, once the company hired to do the work can prove it meets government norms.
The drilling you saw was probably located in the east section — where the most hazardous chemicals lie. The project will cost $18 million in federal funds to build a retaining wall 920 metres long and 12 metres deep between the Bonaventure Expressway and the river. The wall will catch the diesel, PCBs and other heavy metals. At that location, 128 wells will pump the chemicals out of the soil and transport it to two hydrocarbon recovery stations, which will be emptied about every month. The hydrocarbons will either be reused or they’ll be treated and disposed of.
Here’s a video illustrating the work being done.
Q: When will the remainder of Highway 35 to Philipsburg be completed? It’s 10 kilometres short of a connection to the U.S. border.
Town of Mount Royal
A: The route to and from the U.S. border at Phillipsburg — a narrow three-lane highway passing through small towns — is a long-standing irritant, not only for people heading on vacation, but truckers who complained about dangers of the narrow highway.
While Highway 35 is a proper highway with two lanes in each direction, and exits and entrances, it ends at Route 133.
A 24.5-kilometre stretch of Highway 35 was extended in 2014, leaving only 13.5 kilometres.
In 2014, then-Premier Pauline Marois said she hoped the highway extension would be completed by 2017, but there is no construction happening on the extension, and it isn’t in most recent 10-year infrastructure plan outlined by the province.
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