Montreal homeowners living on contaminated land accuse city of delaying legal proceedings

A group of property owners who live on contaminated land near Baldwin Park in the Plateau–Mont-Royal borough say they are fed up with lagging legal proceedings — and they accuse the city of intentionally stalling their case.

14 homeowners in the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough are suing the city for $7M

Neighbours Pascal Cormier, left, and Lucie Piché live on land that now emits biogas. Their homes on Sherbrooke Street East were built on contaminated land. (CBC)

A group of property owners who live on contaminated land near Baldwin Park in the Plateau–Mont-Royal borough say they are fed up with lagging legal proceedings — and they accuse the city of intentionally stalling their case.

"From a moral standpoint, I don't see how the Plante administration can wash its hands of the environmental impact of this," said homeowner Pascal Cormier.

Cormier lives on Sherbrooke Street East, between Mercier and Fullum streets, near Baldwin Park. The homes there were built on a former dump site that was never decontaminated.

Cormier is one of 14 property owners in nine buildings suing the city for $7 million, claiming the city knew the properties were built on contaminated land but never informed them.
Fourteen homeowners who live the red area on this map of Montreal are living on a former dump site. They are suing the city for not informing them their land was contaminated. (Google Maps)

The lawsuits came following a Radio-Canada investigation in 2015, which revealed that the land beneath homes and parks in at least 62 zones in the city could possibly be contaminated.

Cormier and his neighbours say, given that their land is worthless, they want Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante to keep her promise: to find a solution for them, preferably an out-of-court settlement.

Instead, they say the city's lawyers are stalling.

Since March, the two parties have been to court three times. That's meant $10,000 in legal fees.

"And since 2016, we estimate that we've already spent $150,000 on things such as testing the soil, legal fees and so on. And that's not even counting our personal time we've invested," said Lucie Piché, another property owner who is part of the lawsuit.

"We have become really fed up with this situation."

Plante said she wants to find a solution but wouldn't comment further, citing that the case is before the courts.

"I find it difficult for citizens that are dealing with a situation they didn't ask for, that they didn't know about. And even for Montreal, it's not an easy situation. So this is my hope, that we can find a solution, but there's not much more I can say at this point."

The homeowners say they will ask the judge to expedite proceedings the next time they are in Quebec Superior Court, which is set for June 8.

With files from CBC reporter Navneet Pall

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