In order to appease the worried citizens of Limoilou, the Minister of the Environment claims to have relied on science and public health to soon allow the increase of nickel particles in the air on its territory.
“We wanted to do things well and we left it to the scientists and specialists who, today, tell us that, in a way very safe, we can review this standard,” pleaded Minister Benoit Charette, on the sidelines of the study of a bill in the National Assembly, Tuesday.
By filing this regulation on December 16, Quebec wants to allow the mining industry to quintuple the nickel emission standard in its air every day. The industry had been asking the government to look into the matter for several years.
“Quebec's standards were contrary to the spirit of many others internationally,” noted the Minister of the Environment, giving the example of Ontario and Europe.
For the Legault government, nickel is “a key component for the electrification of transport” and for its development strategy for the battery sector, admits the minister.
In the fall of 2012, a handling operation at the Port of Quebec caused an episode of red nickel dust in Limoilou.
This event marked the population of Limoilou and a legal storm followed. Public Health had also recognized that nickel in the ambient air could present a risk of allergic pathologies, but a “negligible risk” of cancer.
A year later, the Marois government tightened 14 nanograms per cubic meter the standard for the presence of nickel in the air. Since then, the mining industry has been calling for a review, putting a lot of pressure on elected officials.
The CAQ government has finally agreed to lighten the standard and will raise it to a ceiling of 70 ng/m3 per day in order to “better exploit” the nickel.
However, those who emit particles must respect an average of 20 ng/m3 per year. This limit must protect the population from the harmful effects of nickel on human health, support the studies of Quebec.
According to the PQ environment spokesperson Sylvain Gaudreault, the minister should apply the precautionary principle in this file and reconsider the decision to modify this standard.
“We cannot come and change a standard that has impacts and create concern in a local population without taking into account the precautionary principle. Obviously, on nickel standards, there are debates,” he said.
Saga at City Hall
The opposition to the City of Quebec wanted the city council to express its opposition to the adoption of the by-law, fearing for the quality of the air.
Mayor Bruno Marchand wants, for its part, to listen to the experts during a plenary committee on February 3 before deciding.
Minister Charette promises that he will listen and that opinions will be taken into consideration.
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