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Big Brother's watching: Quebec calls on technology to track contaminated soil

by Mark Sabourin
EcoLog, 4/18/2019 11:43:00 AM

Quebec will soon release a draft regulation that will require the real-time tracking of contaminated soil movement in the province, from excavation to final disposal. Quebec Minister of the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change Benoit Charette described the system as unique in Canada at an April 12, 2019 news conference held at a contaminated soil treatment centre in Montreal.

The draft regulation comes on the heels of a successful pilot project that used a new private real-time waste tracking solution called Traces Quebec. Developed by Réseau Environnement and WikiNet, Traces Quebec uses GPS technology and artificial intelligence not only to track the movement of contaminated soil, but also to identify anomalies that may indicate non-compliance.

An investigation in 2018 by the newspaper La Presse revealed that police suspected involvement of organized crime in the illegal movement and dumping of contaminated soil in Quebec. The government has borne this concern in mind. It intends that the soil tracking system be administered by a non-profit organization independent of any industry stakeholder. Data collected by the system will be encrypted and securely archived.

Quebec’s two main municipal associations, the Fédération québécoise des municipalités and the Union des municipalités du Québec, were quick to offer their support to the initiative, which the government hopes to have in place by 2019 summer’s end.

Speaking to a Radio-Canada reporter, Charette later added that the new system should allow inspectors to focus their attention where it is deserved. Compliant companies will benefit because they will likely be subject to fewer inspections, he said. The new system should also level the playing field in the industry, where compliant companies now face unfair competition from those who don’t play by the rules.

The new system will be backed up by regulatory amendments that will vastly increase penalties. Fines will rise to as much as $3 million for the most serious offences.

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