The McInnis cement plant in the Gaspé continues to spit sticky dust on the heads of its neighbors, who are worried about their health and deplore the inaction of Environment Quebec in the face of the worst polluter in the province.
At the end of October, the neighbors of Ciment McInnis in Port-Daniel-Gascons had, again, the unpleasant surprise of finding their vehicles covered with sticky dust that was impossible to clean, as in the summer of 2020 and the summer of 2021. he company quickly invited them to go, neither seen nor known, to the local mechanic Daniel Langlois, who confirmed to the Journal having treated a dozen vehicles in recent months at the expense of the company.
“It doesn’t wash off and it can damage the paint, so we wash with a special product two or three times and then we apply wax,” he explains. It happens when they [Ciment McInnis] have a failure, a break in their chimney. »
“It’s all in the air. We must change the filters of the heat pump often, it is not normal. My main question is: is it harmful to health? worries a neighbor who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals.
The company denies
Asked by The newspaper, the company is sweeping the dust under the rug, saying it has experienced “no significant equipment failures.”
“From time to time, the vehicles of employees parked at the plant may become dusty and we may offer these employees car washes at the company’s discretion as part of our normal operations,” the spokeswoman said. Maryse Tremblay.
But the ecologist Pascal Bergeron, of Environnement Vert Plus, is not reassured. He filed a complaint with Environnement Québec several times in two years.
“On October 29, the Ministry [de l’Environnement] carried out an inspection of the targeted residential land and took dust samples,” said ministry spokesman Daniel Messier.
The neighbors have stopped complaining as the problem is recurrent and a source of conflict in the community of 2,200 souls.
“You know, when you live in a small village where so many people work at the cement plant, you are caught between health and the economy. I don’t want any trouble,” a neighbor says anonymously.
“In any case, the ministry does not answer us,” she adds.
Since the summer of 2020, she has been asking Environment Quebec for the nature of the dust and the risk it poses to health, to no avail. The request for access to this data made by Mr. Bergeron was also rejected.
Quebec has been investigating for months
Two investigations that could lead to findings of criminal offenses against Ciment McInnis have been dragging on for months.
The Ministry of the Environment launched an initial investigation after the dust emission in the summer of 2020, then another investigation the following summer after new emissions.
“At the end of these investigations, if the investigation report leads to the conclusion that there have been violations of the Environment Quality Act or its regulations, the file will be submitted to the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions”, indicates the spokesperson. word of the Ministry of the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change (MELCC) Daniel Messier.
However, he does not explain why these two investigations last so long. “Since an investigation process is underway on this subject, the MELCC must limit its comments,” he said.
For the ecologist Pascal Bergeron, of Environnement Vert Plus, the investigation times are unreasonable.
He denounces the opacity of business and the state, reminding them that citizens have the right to know what they breathe.
In August 2020, a spokeswoman for Cement McInnis said the substance released by the company was clinker dust.
The worst after asbestos
This dust is dangerous to health if inhaled for a long time, because it contains crystalline silica, indicates the French cement giant Lafarge.
Crystalline silica ranks second in the dramatic ranking of deaths caused by toxic dusts, just after asbestos.
It causes silicosis, “an irreversible lung disease causing progressive respiratory problems, ranging from shortness of breath on exertion to very serious respiratory impairment, the complications of which can be fatal”, describes the Standards Commission, of the equity, health and safety at work.
Lafarge adds that prolonged or repeated inhalation of respirable crystalline silica from clinker can also cause autoimmune conditions and chronic kidney disease.