Arsenic in the Horne foundry: the floor is up to the citizens of Rouyn-Noranda, says Legault

Arsenic in the Horne foundry: the floor is up to the citizens of Rouyn-Noranda, says Legault

As the Horne Foundry unveiled its plan to reduce its arsenic emissions on Thursday, François Legault believes it is now up to the people of Rouyn-Noranda to decide whether or not they can live with the “minimum risk” of lower concentrations of pollutants in the air.

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“Now it is important to consult the population as well,” said the Prime Minister at a press conference in Sainte-Adèle, where he presented his candidate in Bertrand, France – Élaine Duranceau.

Mr. Legault pointed out that Horne Foundry represents 650 direct jobs averaging $107,000 per year and up to 2,200 indirect jobs in the Rouyn-Noranda region. He believes that the population should therefore have the opportunity to say whether or not they accept the health risks of living near the foundry.

“I think people have the right to say, ‘Can I live minimal risk for a certain number of years?’ I think we have reached a stage: the floor is up to the people of Rouyn-Noranda,” the Prime Minister opened.

Solidarity member for Rouyn-Noranda-Témiscamingue responded to Horne Foundry's plan to reduce its arsenic emissions presented to members of La Presse Parlementaire in Quebec.

Gabriel Cote

Solidarity member for Rouyn-Noranda-Témiscamingue responded to Horne Foundry’s plan to reduce its arsenic emissions presented to members of La Presse Parlementaire in Quebec.

For her part, while agreeing on the importance of consulting citizens, supporting MP Émilise Lessard-Therrien believes that people in Rouyn-Noranda “are not willing to live with worse air quality […] for the profits of a foreign multinational company”.

“The people of Rouyn-Noranda agree. There is a Quebec standard. Why people in Rouyn-Noranda are not entitled to this standard […]? That is the question on everyone’s lips,” she told the parliamentary press on Thursday.

To plan

Earlier Thursday, the Horne Smelter announced it will invest $500 million in retrofit projects to reduce its pollutant emissions and meet the goal of 15 nanograms (ng) per cubic meter (m3) in five years.

This new limit is nearly seven times lower than the current standard, which allows the facility to release up to 100 ng/m3 of arsenic into the air. The Company still has no plan to meet the Quebec standard of 3 ng/m3 requested by several stakeholders in the field as well as by the citizens of the Notre-Dame District.

For his part, the Prime Minister recalled that public health experts believe that a concentration of 15 nanograms of arsenic is “safe” for the population. “The question now is how long will it take to reach 15 and what the goals will be. I want there to be intermediate targets,” Mr Legault said.

The company rightly pledged on Thursday to gradually reduce arsenic emissions over the next few years. Before reaching the 15 ng/m3 threshold in 2027, the foundry plans to reduce its emissions to 65 ng/m3 for next year and then to 45 ng/m3 for 2024-2026.