parkEarlier today, contaminated sand was removed from the courtyard of the Allion side of a school on 9th Avenue in LaSalle. The other side of the building houses LaSalle Community Comprehensive High School.

The removal took place after local resident Joseph Pugliese called the Lester B. Pearson School Board, the borough of LaSalle and the environment ministry. None of them took his concerns seriously, he said, so he called the police and then, at 2 a.m. Wednesday, the fire department.

With the smell of hydrocarbons and all the liquid in the vicinity, it’s clear that something has to be done,” said Pugliese six hours later. “This is right next to a park and there are children playing here. Some of the liquid is heading for the sewers; I bet the water table is contaminated too.”

Pugliese has been asking about toxins in the school since last September because Allion appears with two other LaSalle schools on the Quebec environment ministry’s list of contaminated properties. The list names the building by its former LaSalle Catholic High School moniker and states that Hydrocarbons C10 and C50 exist on the site. Despite a potential health risk to students, no public explanation of the contamination occurred when the Allion primary school moved to the building in 2007. At that time, K.F. Construction Inc. received $1,077,077 in March 2007 to handle any construction necessary to prepare the building for the new students.

The price of the current project isn’t quite so clear in LBPSB minutes. During the executive meeting on May 20, councillors awarded a contract for $55,523.00 (plus taxes) to Les Constructions P.R.V. Inc. to remove an oil tank at LaSalle Community High School.* Three days later, during its regular council meeting, the school board awarded another contract to Construction Richard A. Germano $124,000 for “exterior caulking, windows and fiber management” plus the installation of acoustic panels in the Allion gymnasium.

The same minutes show another $4.9 million awarded to Les services EXP for an eco-energy project in six different unspecified locations. The Allion project may be one of those. Riverview Elementary in Verdun also has a clean-up project happening this summer to remove contamination from when the property held a plant producing coke for steel-making. Created with Nokia Smart Cam

In LaSalle, the chemical smell was obvious near Allion late Tuesday. Pugliese smelled it as he drove by the school, but it took him a while to figure out where the fumes were coming from. The tarp-covered sand and liquid was stored in the back of the school right next to the park.

When he saw the liquid running free in the pouring rain, he panicked and started calling everyone he thought could help solve the problem, including several members of the media. By early Wednesday morning, construction employees were spreading sand over the leaking liquid to contain it.

School officials say that the liquid-filled sand came from two contaminated oil tanks removed from the school.

The gas-like smell permeated the air for about three blocks around the site. There was also a lot of oil on the ground in the school yard.

Employees from Constructions PRV from Vaudreuil-Dorion were actively containing the leak with bags of a clumping material and by spreading sand on the stained pavement shortly after 7:30 in the morning. One said they were waiting for a larger truck to remove the sand.

Meanwhile, officials from the Lester B. Pearson School board and the borough began arriving onsite to see if more action should be taken.

The Montreal Fire Department and the City of Montréal’s Service de l’Environnement were both called in and judged the situation safe for the environment and the public,” said Pierre Dupuis, LaSalle’s public affairs director and clerk. “I remind you that the Borough is NOT responsible for environmental issues. However, the Borough is always concerned with the safety of people on its public domain. In this respect, we trust our colleagues at the Fire Dept and the Service de l’environnement. Should they have raised any doubt concerning the environment around Allion School, the Borough would have taken action, for instance closing Raymond Park to the public for a while. But the Borough was never asked to take any action of that nature either by the Fire dept. or the Service de l’environnement.”

The work finished shortly after noon. A neighbour who lives on 9th Avenue near the building was relieved to see the project coming to an end.

It’s been loud and noisy for at least two weeks now,” said the woman, who wants to remain anonymous. “I like sitting outside and it’s been really impossible. There’s been noise from construction for at least two weeks now.”

Created with Nokia Smart CamThe noise might be less intense in the coming weeks, but the work is only half done. A second contractor, RSR Environment Inc., has already prepared the site for asbestos removal from the walls. That project begins in the next few days.

For other stories about today, refer to,, and

November 28, 2013: Radon Testing in Schools Begins Now: Toxin Cleanup Next Summer

In the next month, the Lester B. Pearson School Board plans to begin testing for radon in all its Montreal schools south of Highway 40. “It’s a three-month long test and it has to be done in the winter,” said Carol Heffernan, Assistant Director General of Lester B. Pearson School Board. “This area was the last region in Montreal that might have a problem, so that’s why it was left for last.” The testing is being done at the request of Quebec’s environment ministry, which also has concerns about hydrocarbons on various school properties. Hydrocarbons usually contain benzene, which is known to cause cancer in humans. Benzene and other aromatic hydrocarbons are considered risky because they can be absorbed through the skin or by breathing in addition to taking them in through the digestive system. Buildings located on or near hydrocarbon deposits are at risk for something known as “vapour intrusion,” in which airborne toxins infiltrate the premises causing breathing difficulties, fainting and headaches. The Lester B. Pearson school board hopes to clean up the petroleum hydrocarbons C10 to C50 located on the property of the LaSalle Community Comprehensive High School next summer. “The school used to offer auto mechanics as an option,” said Carol Heffernan, Assistant Director General of Lester B. Pearson School Board. “The oils were disposed into an oil tank that still exists underground.” Heffernan says that the project to remove the tank has been put on the school board’s list of priorities for the summer of 2014. She expects the project to cost about $200,000. The Ministry of Environment asked the school to test whether the tanks were leaking into the surrounding soil or the water a few years ago. In the summer of 2009, the school board set up six different bore holes inside and outside the school in the vicinity of the tank. The bore holes went down 12 and 14 feet so that soil samples could be taken below the ten-foot deep water table. “It conforms to all the standards,” said Heffernan. “It’s not considered an immediate concern.” LaSalle Comprehensive is one of three LaSalle schools listed on the Ministry of Environment’s list of contaminated lands at The other two, Clement and Cavalier de LaSalle Secondary School, are within the Marguerite Bourgeoys School Board. Even schools that don’t appear on this list can contain toxins on their properties. Neither Verdun Elementary nor Riverview schools appear on this list. Despite that, the remains of old coke deposits were removed from Verdun Elementary’s school yard last summer during a million dollar playground rejuvenation. Heffernan says that Riverview has a similar problem and has also been placed on their priority list for a clean-up next summer.

*This information was not included in the original report. Thanks to Chris Eustace for pointing out the information from the Executive meeting.

Note: This story appeared on pages 1 and 2 of the West Island version of the Suburban yesterday.


Tracey Arial

Unapologetically Canadian Tracey Arial promotes creative entrepreneurship as an author, cooperative business leader, gardener, family historian and podcaster.

  • I would like to echo the comments of Mr. Pugliese…Having attended about 15 years of LBPSB meetings, I believe you are the first journalist to check the official minutes of those meetings….

    Minutes do count and say a lot. A good example is this story in which the Assistant D.G. Says it will cost about $200,000 to clean up the mess….Yet months later we read a contract says it cost about $55,000. (Exec minutes May 2014)…

    There is a hint in this reported story by the media that makes one wonder. Who is responsible for this type of job? Municipality or school board ?….

    I believe that municipalities should be given more power and do this type of work, that school boards, in my opinion, are not really cut out to do.

    Also, I believe the LBPSB should check every one of its schools for air quality and other environment matters and report directly to every Governing Board – and give a Bill of Health, so to speak, to all parents.

    Lastly, the LBPSB should list all work to be done of every school on its territory and list this work on its website – just like the CSDM. “Info Travaux“..

    As a candidate for chair of the LBLSB at this November’s elections, I will continue pushing the board to do the aforementioned….

    Chris Eustace

  • Thank you for reporting on the facts without censorship since this whole issue initially begun back in September 2013.

    Your selfless work as a journalist is much appreciated in the name of public interest and social justice.

    Please keep up the great work Ms. Arial :)))

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