The Quebec government announced $75 million in funding for the City of Montreal to decontaminate soil on its territory by 2022.

Provincial Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Climate Change Isabelle Melancon made the announcement on Sunday morning in Verdun. She was accompanied by Minister Responsible for the Montreal Region Martin Coiteux and Mayor Valerie Plante.

The funding is part of a project aimed at rehabilitating soil to build schools and green spaces.

Last year, the Quebec government announced a $50 million province-wide program, called ClimatSol-Plus, that would support projects put forth by municipalities looking to clean up their soil. The new funding is part of a Montreal-specific project that the city will be in charge of, due to its new metropolitan status.

"Montreal does have particular needs, a particular situation, we want to recognize because we're in the process of changing the nature of our relationship with Montreal with the new status of metropolis," said Coiteux. "Montreal will have its own program to rehabilitate land contaminated by oil and heavy metals, for example."

Plante said the exact amount of contaminated land on the island isn't known but estimated 200 million metric tonnes of contaminated soil is dosposed of every year.

"The fact is, if you want to build on land in Montreal, land that there has never been housing before, often there is contamination," she said. 

Plante said the grant will also be used by the private sector, saying they can decontaminate non-municipal land at a lower cost. Private projects will be elligible to have cleanup efforts financed by up to 75 per cent. 

"Is it private land, is it municipal land? All these things need to be considered. Is it a company we're working with, is it a team of organizations wanting to build social housing?" said Plante. "It's very, very different depending on what's the project and who is behind it."

The announcement was made at Verdun's new cultural centre, which was built on cleaned up land. Borough Mayor Jean-Francois Parenteau said the announcement will help ease pressure on a land-starved real estate market. 

"The land we have, all the time it's contaminated," he said. "This announcement is the key for difference projects."

Society to Overcome Pollution co-president Daniel Green said the project is good, especially as it will be used to clear up space for social housing.  

"It is good news. One wonders if it's not electorally motivated news," he said. "The City of Montreal has been asking for funds to decontaminate what we call our 'brown fields,' lands that have been contaminated by almost 100 years of industry in some areas of the island."

Still, he worried about the possibility of corruption negating the good environmental news. 

"We now know that organized crime has been involved in moving contaminated soils around the province," he said. "It would be very important that the ministers for the environment and the City of Montreal not get caught up in moving these contaminated soils outside Montreal. It would be sad if our decontamination on the island of Montreal be a source of contamination outside of Montreal."

- With files from The Canadian Press