Quebec Premier François Legault sought to reassure the residents of Châteauguay and Kahnawake following a spill of petroleum products into a creek on the border of the city and the Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) community.

A fuel oil spill from a tank occurred on Feb. 12 at 2325 Ford Boulevard, in Châteauguay, according to the Environment Ministry's Urgence-Environnement response register.

"Every spill of toxic products into the environment is a horror and a tragedy for the public and the environment," Châteauguay Mayor Eric Allard said in a new release. "We are certainly working with the federal and provincial authorities, as well as with the Kahnawake Band Council, to ensure that the person or persons responsible for this accidental spill or, if it was deliberate, this uncontrolled spill, assume all the consequences and costs."

During a visit to the region on Friday afternoon, Legault said he had discussed the situation with the Mohawk Council Grand Chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer, and local CAQ MNA Marie-Belle Gendron.

"The Ministry of the Environment is involved. What I want to make sure of is that the work that needs to be done will be done to ensure that there is no impact on either humans or animals," said Legault. "So I'm going to make sure, with Benoit Charette, Minister of the Environment, that the work that needs to be done is done."

Category 1 emergency

According to the environment ministry, the fuel oil spill is a category 1 environmental emergency.

This means that the consequences "are minor and easy to identify" or "easily controllable by usual, well-known and well-established means of intervention" or that "the impact on property is relatively minor and human health is not affected."

It is not known what caused "what appears to be an accidental or criminal spill on private property," according to Allard.

The city's news release states that "the owner of the tanker unfortunately passed away last weekend, making the investigation more complicated."

The news release issued by Allard's administration points out that the contamination was discovered on Feb. 9 in Kahnawake by a resident whose property was affected by the spill, but it was not until Feb. 12 that Châteauguay municipal authorities were notified of the spill.

According to the news release issued by the city, the Châteauguay police and fire services were called to the scene by the owner of the site around Feb. 1.

At the time, the owner had noticed a leak in a tanker and was asking for the vehicle to be towed away.

"The firefighters inspected the site and noted that the leak was limited and contained, and that there was no spread of contamination on the site, or in the storm sewer or ditch," the release reads. "At the scene, the owner of the tanker undertook to dispose of the few litres recovered in sealed containers and then to have his truck towed away."

The contamination occurred a few days after the police and firefighters intervened, and to date the situation is "contained and under control," according to the municipal administration.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on March 1, 2024.