"Kennedy calls for international inquiry"
MONTREAL - Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is calling for an international probe into an ongoing PCB spill on the St. Lawrence River.
Community groups first documented PCB discharges 8.5 million times higher than the legal limit three years ago. The PCBs leak into the St. Lawrence River daily at the Technoparc landfill site near the Victoria Street Bridge in downtown Montreal.
Waterkeeper Alliance submitted a request for an investigation last week to the Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC). The CEC is a joint US-Canadian-Mexican agency established by the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, a side agreement to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The petitions process allows concerned citizens to appeal to an international body when a signatory country fails to enforce its environmental laws.
The submitters assert that officials from the City of Montreal, Province of Quebec, and Government of Canada have known about the leaking Technoparc site for several years but have failed to take action.
"Governments have a moral duty to enforce environmental laws and to protect vital resource for the benefit of all people and for future generations. Canada cannot afford to let its most precious asset - its waters - become increasingly contaminated with dangerous chemicals," says Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance, a coalition of 115 Waterkeeper groups from across the globe.
Waterkeeper Alliance was joined in the submission by Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper, Societe pour Vaincre la Pollution, and the Environmental Bureau of Investigation (EBI).
The submitters cite studies showing elevated levels of PCBs in Montreal-area fishers. PCBs can cause cancer in humans, harm reproductive and immune systems, and are associated with reduced IQ and short-term memory loss.
"The Canadian government's response to the PCB leak is an embarrassment. They have sent a message to the world that Canada is not prepared to enforce its environmental laws or protect the health of its citizens," says environmental lawyer and Technoparc investigator, Mark Mattson of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper.
The submitters also cite data which reveals Quebec officials may be less inclined to enforce federal fisheries protection legislation.
Mr. Kennedy visited the site Sunday while in town to kick-off the Canadian Bar Association's 2003 Canadian Legal Conference.