High school Earth Day cleanup shows West Island’s dirty secret
DORVAL- Students from 10 schools gathered near Dorval’s border with Lachine to clean up the Bouchard Creek, as an early Earth Day event. But instead of finding a mildly polluted stream, which a previous year’s cleanup had scrubbed, they ended up hauling piles of debris out of a creek that is uncomfortably close to the Montreal suburb’s aquifer.
In other words: it becomes drinking water.
“I was shocked when I saw in what state our drinking water was,” said Maja Vodanovic, a West Island artist who organized the cleanup. “It’s filled with garbage!”
During the cleanup, students pulled an old picnic umbrella, four plastic patio chairs, a half-dozen tires and three rusty and dented buckets of toxic chemicals out of the creek.
“A lot of these chemicals are toxic to fish, toxic to aquatic microorganisms,” said Montreal environmentalist Daniel Green, with the Societé pour vaincre la pollution. Those chemicals, he added, are also toxic to people.
“That’s why it has a skull and crossbones- it will kill you- don’t drink it!”
The volunteer event served as a disappointing lesson to some of the students there, like ninth-grader Alex McIntyre.
“As a kid, our parents tell us to make good decisions, and they’re adults. So when we see this, we see adults are making terrible decisions by throwing their waste into the rivers,” he said.
As for what caused the creek’s precarious condition, there is a lot of blame to go around: some blame the nearby industrial parks for illegal dumping- there are several storage facilities in a secluded area. Some blame pipes that run into the creek- some of which illegally tap into sewage lines or storm drains. Others blame everyday people who are just looking for a place to litter in the dark.
“We find all kinds of things: we find sofas, we find tires,” said Dorval Mayor Edgar Rouleau. “That stuff doesn’t just come through a pipe. It’s somebody who throws something away.”
Isabelle Morin, the MP for NDG-Lachine, said she favours added government regulation to shore up the deteriorating state of watersheds like the one Bouchard Creek feeds into. Mayors of nearby areas are frustrated by an issue that could start in one city and end up in another.
“It’s important for the people of Lachine,” said Borough Mayor Claude Dauphin. “Because where we take our water in Lachine is not far from where the Bouchard creek goes in Lake St-Louis.”
For Vodanovic, the artist/organizer, this situation embodies the theme of Earth Day: “Think Globally, Act Locally.”
“This is just one case in my neighbourhood,” she said. “But imagine, you know, all the neighbourhoods must have cases like this.”