Air contamination in Rouyn-Noranda | Horne Foundry on track to meet requirements

The Horne Foundry in Rouyn-Noranda is on track to comply with the new limits for arsenic and other contaminants in the air set by the Quebec government, despite numerous significant peaks in the past year.

The average concentration of arsenic in the air was 45.2 nanograms per cubic meter (ng/m⁠3) since the entry into force of its new ministerial authorization, on March 16, 2023, well below the limit of 65 ng/m⁠3 imposed for the first of the five years covered by the document dictating the operating conditions of the industrial complex.

This average is not definitive, however, because it is calculated over a little more than 11 months, the most recent data dating from February 20; the trend nevertheless suggests a significant drop compared to the average of 73 ng/m⁠3 registered in 2022.

The average of 45.2 ng/m⁠3 however, remains 15 times higher than the Quebec standard for arsenic of 3 ng/m⁠3.

“For the rest of us, this is not yet acceptable,” he told The Press Nicole Desgagnés, spokesperson for the citizens’ committee Stopping Toxic Discharges and Emissions (ARET) of Rouyn-Noranda, believing that Quebec had not been sufficiently demanding towards the company belonging to the Anglo-Swiss multinational Glencore.

“Each step towards compliance with standards is a good thing, (but) we continue to receive these contaminants on our heads every day,” added Isabelle Fortin-Rondeau, project manager for the Mères au front de association. Rouyn-Noranda, reiterating the request that the Horne Foundry be subject to Quebec standards.

Important peaks

This average annual concentration hides significant disparities: 33 of the 139 daily measurements taken during the year exceeded the bar of 65 ng/m⁠3or 24% of the total, and sometimes by a lot, including a record peak of 517.4 ng/m⁠3 recorded on June 5, 2023.

These data come from the Rouyn-Noranda air sampling “legal station”, which is located at the limits of the Horne Foundry land, in the axis of the prevailing winds, where the concentrations of contaminants in the ambient air coming from the business are normally the highest.

This station was also moved a few dozen meters from the industrial complex in the last year, after the acquisition and demolition of residences by the Horne Foundry.

But other sampling stations also measure contaminant levels elsewhere in the city, and they have all recorded significant spikes in airborne arsenic concentrations at different times over the past year.

Cadmium and lead

The ambient air concentrations of cadmium and lead, which the Horne Foundry is also required to limit since the entry into force of its new ministerial authorization, are also decreasing and should respect the limits imposed by Quebec, although they also remain higher than Quebec standards.

These average annual concentrations also hide significant daily disparities; a record cadmium level of 100.7 ng/m⁠3 was for example measured on January 19, while a record lead level of 2847.9 ng/m⁠3 was measured on June 5.

Annual concentrations of lead in the air are also increasing in the area of ​​the Notre-Dame-de-la-Protection primary school, in the Notre-Dame district, where the foundry is located.

They went from 118 ng/m⁠3 in 2022 at 151 ng/m3 in 2023, show data from the sampling station of the Quebec Air Quality Monitoring Network located at the school (data from 1er January to December 31).

“It’s going up instead of going down,” worries Nicole Desgagnés, of the ARET committee.

Optimistic company

The Horne Foundry says it has “confidence that the trend observed until now will be maintained” and will allow it in particular to respect the new limit imposed by Quebec for arsenic, declared to The Press Cindy Caouette, company spokesperson.

“The results recorded since the beginning of the year follow the downward trend that we had evaluated according to our modeling,” she also indicated, attributing this decline to various measures put in place, including the installation of four new dust collectors, the construction of a new storage dome, the paving of paths and improved cleaning.

“These are all measures that should have been taken in 2020”, after the study demonstrating the high level of arsenic in the nails of children in the neighborhood, thunders Nicole Desgagnés, from the ARET committee.


A jogger runs on Avenue Portelance, in front of the Horne Foundry.

“It could have worked before, we might have had four years less with (high levels of arsenic in the air),” she adds, accusing the foundry of having been slow to act.

The limit for arsenic will increase to 45 ng/m⁠3 for the next three years, then at 15 ng/m⁠3 in 2027, according to the ministerial authorization issued in 2023.

“We are aware of the challenges that lie ahead (and) we are confident and committed to continuing our efforts to achieve our targets,” said Caouette.

Data for the full year should be available at the end of April, Caouette, explaining that this delay is attributable to “the collection of the sample, the transmission to the laboratory, the samples for sending to the different laboratories for certain parameters, the analysis of the samples, the compilation of the results (and their) validation “.

Notice of non-compliance

Despite the improvement in its balance sheet, the Horne Foundry received 10 notices of non-compliance for breaches of Environmental Quality Act and its regulations, in the last year. “The shortcomings noted in connection with the authorization concern in particular industrial water effluents and dust emissions”, as well as for work carried out without authorization, indicated to The Press Sophie Gauthier, spokesperson for the Ministry of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks. The Ministry invited The Press to make a request under the Act respecting access to documents held by public bodies and the protection of personal information to obtain reviews, a process that typically takes several weeks.


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