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This article was published 16/8/2017 (828 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A member of a south St. Boniface residents group said Tuesday’s meeting with a senior government official over a controversial auto parts shredding operation marks the start of a long process to ensure proper environmental testing is conducted in their neighbourhood.
Michelle Berger, a member of the South St. Boniface Residents Association, said she left Tuesday’s meeting with deputy minister Bruce Gray, of sustainable development, confident knowing the group made a strong case for the need for independent environmental testing.
"They didn’t know much about it and we gave them the ABCs of the shredder world from our research," Berger said. "We feel the deputy minister heard our concerns and there will be some follow-up on this…It started the ball rolling for more discussion."
The residents association has been calling for independent environmental testing of the air, water and soil adjacent to auto parts recycling operator Industrial Metals after a University of Manitoba expert questioned the methods and conclusions of air testing done a year ago.
While residents have expressed concern over increased levels of noise and dust after the Rue Messier plant in the Missions Industrial Park began operating an auto parts shredder – a massive device that physically pounds vehicles into component parts – in September 2015, the province said air quality testing found no reason for concern.
Berger said the group – about 14 area residents and business owners along with former premier and area MLA Greg Selinger and Dr. Shirley Thompson, an associate professor in the natural resources institute at the U of M and an expert in industrial hygiene and eco-health – met with Gray for about an hour and promised to follow up with a written submission.
Berger said they recognize that Industrial Metals is a legitimate business operation and the recycling work is necessary but the residents and business owners want to make sure that the firm is in compliance with the environmental regulations and that the health of residents and workplaces is not compromised.
"We get it, we need recycling, we understand that but you shouldn’t be able to taste the metal in your mouth when you’re sitting at home," Berger said. "You want to make sure you’re keeping people as safe as you can."
The province declined a request for an interview with Gray but a government spokesman said there was no commitment to accede to the group’s call for independent testing.
"Manitoba Sustainable Development had a frank and open discussion with the South St. Boniface Residents Association (SSBRA) about their concerns and the information they have gathered," the spokesman wrote in an email, adding the province is waiting for a formal written request from the residents before making a decision.
"Once received, the province will consider their proposal while continuing to share information with the group through regular open dialogue," the spokesman said.
Berger said she’s under no illusion that the province will quickly concede to their request, adding however she feels like this is the first time the government is actually hearing the neighbourhood’s concerns.
"We only had an hour but the people from the area were very reasonable," Berger said. "They just want to know that good testing is happening and measures are being taken to keep people safe."
Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.