09/26/2013 09:49 EDT | Updated 11/26/2013 05:12 EST

Work begins removing PCBs from Pointe-Claire site

The government of Quebec announced today that it has begun removing PCBs which were illegally stored in Pointe-Claire, after the company that owns the site said it would be unable to pay for the decontamination.

The provincial environment ministry found out about the presence of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) on a site owned by Reliance Power Equipment last March, after public works employees detected an unknown substance leaking into the city's storm drains.

The government's ensuing investigation concluded that, not only had Reliance been illegally storing the chemical compound on its West Island property for 15 years, but that up to 1,200 litres of the substance had leaked into the nearby area.

On Aug. 29 Quebec Environment Minister Yves-François Blanchet ordered Reliance to dispose of the PCB-laden oil, however, on Sept. 17, the company confirmed that it would not be able to afford the $3-million cost.

- Pointe-Claire PCBs clean-up to cost government $3M

The ministry took over control of the decontamination operation and appointed a company called Sanexen to begin moving liquids and the most contaminated materials on Wednesday.

The cleanup operation will continue until Oct. 4, and the toxic chemicals will be removed to the only site in Canada accredited to deal with the materials, the Alberta Special Waste Treatment Facility, a provincial hazardous waste disposal plant located in Swan Hills, Alberta.​

Pointe-Claire Mayor Bill McMurchie said he is satisfied with the announcement that the toxic materials would be would be safely and completely removed.

"We have cooperated with the Ministry to make sure that the site is made safe as quickly as possible. The Municipal Council's elected officials and I are all the more satisfied with this announcement because our priority has been from the outset to ensure the health and safety of our residents," said Mayor McMurchie in a written statement.

Site security at Reliance has been strengthened in recent days, including the installation of motion detection system.