Residents in Rivière-des-Prairies say they are increasingly frustrated with their neighbour Sanimax — a company that collects and recycles animal parts and turns them into things such as pet food, soap, tires and more.
The latest incident, reminiscent of a horror movie set, happened on Tuesday night when a truck involved in a crash spilled its contents onto Henri-Bourrassa Boulevard.
“It was like a set of a zombie film,” said Theo Vecera, who runs a Facebook group called Sanimax SOS RDP.
“Guts everywhere, carcasses everywhere, and I said, ‘What is this? What’s going on? This is terrible.’ I was disgusted, I was angry and I said, ‘This has to stop.'”
And while the scene was disturbing to look at, Vecera said the smell was even worse.
“It’s a paralyzing smell — you get stopped in your tracks,” Vecera said, adding it was like a combination of vomit and skunk, only 10 times worse.
Vecera was also unhappy with the company’s cleanup efforts.
“It happened in the evening and they did a cleanup,” he said. “The next morning we had carcasses still on the floor, on the trees and on the branches, as a little good morning reminder that Sanimax was here.”
Sanimax Montreal general manager Eric Caputo, called it an accident and defended the company’s response.
“It was an accident and our driver was not at fault. He had to jam on the brakes and by doing so we got a spill of our raw material. It was a hard brake,” he said.
“We take action and we are accountable. We were there within minutes and everything was done within two hours and 30 minutes.”
Residents, however, wonder why the company doesn’t transport the animal parts in sealed trucks, rather than open trucks covered with tarps.
Caputo argued the tarps normally do the job and the company is operating within provincial norms.
“We are in respect of every bylaw in Quebec and the Ministry of Transportation,” he said. “We have more than 25,000 transports in our Montreal plant and 99.8 per cent are done without incident.”
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Vecera countered the company isn’t doing enough to reduce incidents and maintain good relations with citizens.
“If they can’t change their ways, they’re not welcome in the neighbourhood,” he said.
Sanimax has been a fixture in the area for 60 years and Caputo says the company has invested $70 million in the last 15 years alone and is committed to improving its operations and relations with the community.
“We care about our citizens. It’s very important to have good relationships with our citizens,” he said.
But Vecero isn’t convinced.
“When you have over $1 million in fines that you refuse to pay and you want to stay in court with the city, that doesn’t tell us, the citizens, that you’re a good corporate neighbour. I don’t buy that at all.”
Since 2014, the city of Montreal has slapped the company with 18 tickets totaling more than $800,000 in fines for various violations of environmental regulations.
City spokesperson Mélanie Gagné said Sanimax was found guilty in connection with seven files, but added the company was appealing some of those decisions.
“Several other files remain before the courts and as such, the city will not comment further,” she said.
— With files from Global’s Dan Spector