A Pointe Claire company is being asked to stop illegally storing toxic PCB-laden oil on its compound, located near a residential district on Montreal's West Island.

The city says Reliance Power Equipment, located in an industrial park on Hymus Blvd., has been keeping transformers full of the dangerous chemicals unsupervised in its yard for the past 15 years.

In a statement released this afternoon, Quebec's environment ministry confirmed 800-1,200 litres of oily liquid containing large concentrations of PCBs leaked from Reliance's property last March.

One more week to comply

The ministry has ordered the company to dispose of the PCBs safely and has given it one more week to comply with the order.

Officials at the city say over the years Reliance has taken Pointe Claire to court twice—and lost—because the company wanted a permit to store PCB-contaminated equipment on its property.

"If it's properly secure, the risk is minimum, but it needs to be well done and it needs to be eventually cleaned out and it needs to go where it can be treated—and it's not in Pointe Claire," said Nicolas Bouchard, Pointe Claire's city manager. 

No immediate health risk, say public health officials

Norman King, a spokesman for Montreal's public health department, says he was informed of the PCBs by the environment ministry on May 30.

King told CBC's Radio Noon that for the moment, the PCBs don't pose a health risk to people in the area, though there is a potential danger of the chemicals spreading in the event of an accident.  

"If there were a fire on the site, then we would be talking about something really important," said King. "Our primary concern is to do everything we can so that there will not be such an event."

King said the site is being monitored around the clock to ensure nobody enters the facility before the site can be cleaned up.  

PCBs were used in the manufacturing of electrical equipment, heat exchangers, hydraulic systems, and several other specialized applications up to the late 1970s.

The import, manufacture and sale of PCBs were made illegal in Canada in 1977.

However, Canadian legislation has allowed owners of PCB equipment to continue using the equipment until the end of its service life.

The storage of PCBs has been regulated since 1988. Handling, transport and destruction of PCBs are also regulated, mostly under provincial regulations.