Montreal

Community members concerned about air quality, noise levels as new REM station is built

Parents at a school in Outremont are worried about potential health and safety issues that may arise as a new REM station is built in the area, but the mayor of Outremont describes the project as a "model of cooperation."

CDPQ Infra insists ministry rules and guidelines are being followed in the construction project

Kaila Folinsbee has a son who attends Saint-Germain d'Outremont elementary. She is concerned about the construction's potential health risks. (CBC)

Parents at a school in Outremont are worried about potential health and safety issues that may arise as a new REM station is built in the area.

Kaila Folinsbee, whose son is in Grade 3 at Saint-Germain d'Outremont elementary, metres away from the construction site, says she feels those in charge of the project haven't been transparent.

"They're dynamiting right next to our school and there was no impact assessment. It was determined it wasn't necessary to do that in advance and so we're concerned about what the impacts are," she said.

The work is to build the Édouard-Montpetit station, which will be 70 metres underground and 20 storeys deep — the second deepest train station of its kind on the continent.

Twice a day dynamite blasts will be required for the next eight months to build the station, which is slated to open in 2022.

But there are a number of schools and daycares in the area, and concerned citizens say there's no way to know how the work will affect people in the neighbourhood.

Catherine Lapointe, a member of the Édouard-Montpetit neighbourhood committee, says her group was told no environment impact assessment was necessary by law because, while the station is new, the work is being done on an existing track.

Still, her group wants specialists to look into the air quality and noise pollution.

"We don't know anything about the [impact on] quality of life, and the health of our children," she said.

Catherine Lapointe, a member of the Édouard-Montpetit neighbourhood committee, wants specialists to look into the air quality and noise pollution. (CBC)

Folinsbee said CDPQ Infra hasn't been forthcoming when it comes to air pollution. While they calculate the average amount of fine particulate matter in the air over 24 hours and post that information to their website, they won't give out the raw data, which would indicate spikes over the course of the day.

Then there is the increased traffic. Folinsbee co-ordinates an initiative called Trottibus, which sees 80 kids walk to school escorted by an adult.

With lane reductions in the area, frustrated drivers aren't being as prudent, she said. Cyclists and motorists are being rerouted, and she has witnessed potentially dangerous situations involving students trying to cross the road.

And the construction has brought with it more trucks travelling directly in front of the school every day, she said.

The construction work is to build the Édouard-Montpetit station, which will be 70 metres underground and 20 storeys deep. (CBC)

'A model of cooperation'

Outremont Mayor Philippe Tomlinson said the group carrying out the work has been "a model of cooperation."

"They have listened to [the borough's] concerns and those of citizens, and when needed, have changed or reoriented their work in order to answer them."

Louis-Francois Tétreault, a toxicologist with Montreal's public health department, says the contractor is respecting the norms for noise and particulates in the air, which are set by the Environment Ministry.

He said it is up to the project manager to measure air quality, noise levels and vibrations.

Tétreault says, while public health has encouraged the contractor to provide more specific measurements to the public and be more transparent, it cannot force the company to do so.

A spokesperson for the new train line insists there has been a lot of collaboration with the public.

Jean-Vincent Lacroix, director of media relations with CDPQ Infra, told CBC News that workers are following pre-existing rules set out by the government.

"That's why we're doing live monitoring," he said. "It's to really follow every step of this work site and making sure that the results are corresponding to the strict norms that we have to respect."

With files from Jay Turnbull, Lauren McCallum and Radio-Canada's Pascal Robidas

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