Mile End residents challenged City Hall Monday about wood-fired ovens in their neighbourhood.

They are worried about fine particulate emissions coming from the neighbourhood's world-famous St. Viateur and Fairmount bagels.

Residents including Francois Grenier, who has lived near Fairmount Bagel for 25 years and who had a severe asthma attack 20 years ago, wanted to know if the city actually enforces its bylaw regarding the amount of pollution that can be emitted by a wood-burning oven.

Executive Committee member Real Menard said that the city does take action when necessary.

"We have the authority to give some fines. We have the authority to oblige those people to buy equipment to respect the bylaw," said Menard.

B.A. Markus, who lives in the Mile End, was not impressed.

"He said we have the power to work with the companies we have the power to issue fines. But can they enforce this or is this just convenient, something that looks nice to the public," said Markus.

There are 100 restaurants and bakeries with wood-burning ovens on the island, and in the past two years they have generated 12 complaints, while the city has handed out two fines.

The owners of St. Viateur Bagels and Fairmount Bagels each said they have spent roughly $250,000 on smokestack scrubbers and engineering solutions to reduce the amount of fine particulate matter coming from their bakeries.

Irwin Shlafman, owner of Fairmount Bagels, said it's an ongoing process. 

While the latest tests showed both companies are operating above the limits imposed by the city, both companies say they've been able to reduce emissions.

"We're making headway on a weekly basis here in terms of modifying, adding stuff to the system, that's making it more and more efficient," said Shlafman.

He is confident the next test will show his company is meeting Montreal's air pollution standards.

Robert Morena, co-owner of St. Viateur Bagels, said his new filter from Europe should be installed by the end of the year.

"We're ordering a whole new chimney. It has to be built. We sent the city (all the information) before we ordered it," said Morena.

Bagel shops in Montreal have been using wood-burning ovens since 1949.