Montreal-Noranda (Quebec, Canada), correspondence
Two huge chimneys spew exhaust fumes from the Horne smelter, reminding those who look up that it still dominates the western Quebec town of Rouyn-Noranda. Marianne Saucier has lived in the neighborhood of the company, which belongs to Anglo-Saxon giant Glencore, for four years: “ We really didn’t know it was that dangerous »she says reporter re.
The Quebec National Institute for Public Health estimates that the population has historically been exposed to emissions of 1,000 ng/m³ (nanograms per cubic meter) of airborne arsenic, more than 330 times the current standard . The life expectancy of residents living near the smelter is lower than that of the rest of the population and the risk of developing the city’s residents Cancer is higher. “ Of course I’m worried about my children. It’s hard to integrate all the risks that hang over our heads »says Marianne Saucier.
The wildlife is also affected. A study regarding Lake Osisko near the smelter, where bathing is prohibited, shows that the fish are contaminated with cadmium and lead. Moose who eat the surrounding plants also accumulate it in their organism. Enough that eating 200 grams of a native elk’s kidney is equivalent to ingesting it “ 1.7 times the recommended annual dose of cadmium »teach us Canadian public broadcaster.
- The two chimneys at Horne Foundry in 1979. Wikimedia Commons/CC THROUGH–YOU 4.0/Francois Ruph
The silence of the authorities
Policy makers have long been aware of the impact of this pollution. Radio Canada revelations showed that the government had been warned as early as 1979 that the children of Rouyn-Noranda were contaminated with arsenic. However, those in power who succeeded one another in power left the chimneys of the country’s last copper smelter bare for operation and still allowed arsenic emissions thirty times higher than today’s norm. And this without saying everything about the risks involved. Three years ago, the former Quebec national director of public health withdrew from a public presentation of lung cancer data, more commonly in Rouyn-Noranda, reveals Radio Canada.
Why this privilege on standards ? Certainly the foundry was already there before borders were set. The Horne merges with the city. After the smelter and mine were built, the company formed its own city, Noranda. she planned “ his town around his mine […]. Like we did back then in the “Corporate Cities” »we explain in the Montreal daily The press. Drawing on these strong local roots, the company has built an impressive network of suppliers and generates almost half a billion dollars a year in Quebec. A whole copper daughter depends on it. The government therefore does not want the giant to fall, even though the prime minister mentioned it in September a possible referendum about the closure of the foundry.
The Foundry “ makes headlines » (the news), as we say here, since this summer, the residents of Rouynorand are discovering the extent of their health damage every day. The company says it’s ready to invest 500 million dollars adapting to new criteria to reduce emissions if Quebec is willing to whip out its wallet to help. The plan presented by the company to partially correct the situation is currently not convincing either the citizens or the regional healthcare system. It envisages reducing arsenic emissions by up to 15 nanograms per cubic meter over five years, which is still a long way off current limits.
Quebec and Glencore have until November 20 to agree on a plan and public consultations continue. Marianne Saucier is discouraged: “ We learn things every day from the media and thanks to regional public health, but the government has lied to us for too long. Yes, I worry about the people in my line of work… » Leave ? “ Where to go ? From what we hear it’s going to be difficult to sell a house here. And I would leave those who follow me in an impossible situation. »
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