News  Saint-Michel residents mobilizing against city composting project

Concerns over smell, increased truck traffic, and harm to reputation

Saint-Michel residents are opposing the City of Montreal’s plans to construct a new organic matter treatment centre as party of a city initiative to implement citywide composting.

Late last year, the city chose a plot of empty land next to Highway 40 for the treatment centre. City plans for the site have long indicated that it would become a public green space alongside La TOHU, a large circus arts pavilion which doubles as the welcome centre to the Saint-Michel Environmental Complex. The Complex is where Montreal’s recycled waste is processed, and late last year the city announced that it had also been chosen as the location for the organic matter treatment centre.

The city also plans to build treatment centres in three other corners of the city: LaSalle, Montreal East, and Dorval. The park plan for the green space was originally hatched in 1995. Completion is currently projected for 2017.

The plot, which is similar in size to Mount Royal Park, was once a limestone quarry, and was later transformed into the largest urban landfill in North America by the Miron Construction Company, which bought the site in 1947.

“For the past few years, actors have been working to revitalize the neighborhood. This project is not in line with the current effort,” said resident Denis Sirois, of the Community Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) Centre-Nord economic development organization. Sirois is one of several residents who publicly oppose the project, and plan to meet with both the city council and Mayor Gérald Tremblay to explain their concerns.

Sirois argues that Saint-Michel has too long been identified as Montreal’s dump, and worries about the smell, increased truck traffic, and harm to Saint-Michel’s reputation that could occur if the treatment centre is built.

Meanwhile, borough officials in Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension are saying their initial support for the project was based on presentations by the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM). According to city councilors, these presentations differed from those provided to residents.

“One of the differences we saw was the smell of the product that they bring to Saint-Michel,” said Frantz Benjamin, Saint-Michel’s city councillor. Benjamin explained that at the presentation given to elected officials, they were given the impression that there would be “zero” odour from the treatment centre, but that the public consultation included discussion of some smell coming from the waste brought into Saint-Michel. Benjamin added that plans for the green space would not be affected by the composting project.

Borough Mayor Anie Samson also noted that there were differences in the presentations, according to an article in the Montreal Gazette.

“I will not give any indication of what we will do until the OCPM publishes its report,” said Benjamin, but welcomed the public’s interest in the project as “a great sign of modernization of citizenship” in Saint-Michel. The OCPM is expected to release its report on March 1.

In an email to The Daily, Philippe Sabourin of Montreal’s Public Affairs Division wrote that the treatment centre’s construction will prevent the presence of “unwanted animals,” that the “solutions adopted…will significantly reduce odors” and that the transport of waste under the city’s composting plan will result in “an average decrease of 113 trucks/day, compared to the current situation.”