Class-action lawsuit launched over red dust in Quebec City

A Quebec woman has filed a class-action lawsuit in connection with an incident at a cargo-handling company that resulted in a red cloud of dust settling on a Quebec City neighbourhood.
Quebec City resident Véronique Lalande said she will be asking for $5,000 in compensation for costs related to the red dust that settled on her home. (CBC)

A Quebec woman has filed a class-action lawsuit in connection with an incident at a cargo-handling company that resulted in a red cloud of dust settling over parts of Quebec City.

In October, an error at Arrimage du Québec, a company located in the Port of Quebec, led to the release of red dust over several neighbourhoods in the city.

Véronique Lalande, who lives in the city's Vieux-Limoilou neighbourhood, has filed a class action lawsuit against Quebec City's Port Authority and Arrimage du Québec, on behalf of the residents living in the five neighbourhoods she says were affected.

The cargo-handling company has already admitted responsibility for the release of the dust.

In a December interview with CBC's Quebec AM, spokesman for Arrimage Quebec Richard Thibault said the company was going to put in place a $7 million plan to ensure that kind of incident would not happen again.

Lalande says about 50,000 people live in the area where the red dust settled, but she doesn't yet know how many will be part of the suit. She said residents shouldn't have to foot the bill for the company's mistake.

She said she will be asking for $5,000 in compensation for stress, damages and cleaning costs.

For her part, Lalande said it cost $2,000 to clean her home. Lalande's law firm, Lauzon Bélanger Lespérance, said Arrimage Quebec tried to settle with some residents, but people felt the settlement didn't cover their cleaning costs.

They will be seeking authorization for the lawsuit next month.

Red dust contains traces of heavy metals

In November, Lalande ordered tests from samples of the dust she collected from her balcony.

According to the results, Lalande said the dust contained traces of iron, zinc, copper, arsenic and nickel.

Renée Levaque is the public health ministry's regional coordinator of environmental health.

"It [was] a red cloud of iron-oxide dust, that does contain certain amounts of other heavy metals," she told CBC's Quebec AM in November. 

Levaque said while some people with respiratory conditions may have be affected by the dust, there is no concern for irreversible health affects from exposure to the dust on a short-term or mid-term. 

Levaque said there is more concern for potential long-term exposure.

"We don't like to see heavy metals … in the air of residential neighbourhoods," she said.

Levaque said there could be some concern for children and the elderly.

But, according to spokesman Thibault, the red dust is not toxic or dangerous.