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Government not tracking removal of cancer-causing asbestos from federal buildings

Government not tracking removal of cancer-causing asbestos from federal buildings

A small chunk of chrysotile asbestos mined in Quebec. The cancer-causing mineral can be found in 318 federal government buildings across the country.
 

A small chunk of chrysotile asbestos mined in Quebec. The cancer-causing mineral can be found in 318 federal government buildings across the country.

Photograph by: Dario Ayala , The Gazette

OTTAWA — The federal government says it doesn't actively keep track of projects to remove asbestos from infrastructure, despite owning 318 buildings that contain the cancer-causing substance, according to a recently compiled list from Public Works and Government Services Canada.

More than one-third of the buildings are in the Ottawa-Gatineau region, but the locations listed span the country from coast to coast to coast — including the Supreme Court of Canada, RCMP buildings, the East, Centre and West blocks of Parliament and the National Press Building in Ottawa.

The list does not include buildings owned by departments and agencies outside of Public Works, such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which has identified the toxic substance in 21 Canadian-owned buildings, including official residences of diplomats in the Vatican, Beijing, Tokyo, Washington and Los Angeles. Numerous federal departments and agencies also operate buildings containing asbestos within Canada.

The government says it does not specifically track any asbestos-removal projects since the substance is only removed when required by renovations or maintenance that "results in unavoidable disturbance" of the carcinogen.

"Once the asbestos is removed from a building, an asbestos management plan is no longer required," said Public Works spokeswoman Mylene Dupere. "Therefore, PWGSC does not maintain such a list."

The government has spent millions of dollars in recent years removing the carcinogen from various buildings under renovation, including Parliament's West Block, which has been closed since 2011, forcing MPs and staffers into other buildings.

Updated on Jan. 30, the Public Works list includes 165 buildings in Ontario, 29 in Quebec, 40 in British Columbia, 18 in Manitoba, 17 in Nova Scotia, 16 in the Northwest Territories, 13 in New Brunswick, seven in Newfoundland and Labrador, four in the Yukon, four in Saskatchewan, three in Alberta, and two in Prince Edward Island.

But the department said it was not aware of any "national inventory of buildings containing hazardous material in Canada."

A recent analysis of buildings owned by the Quebec government concluded that province alone owned 289 buildings with asbestos, including about 50 in the Montreal region, Radio-Canada reported last month.

John Bennett, executive director of Sierra Club Canada, an environmental group, questioned why federal buildings have not yet been cleaned up, noting that asbestos removal has been going on for about 30 years. He said the government needs to improve its record-keeping.

"They should know exactly where the asbestos is and where it's removed," Bennett said.

"There should definitely be a program to pro-actively remove it. The problem is usually it gets airborne in a renovation or when it's disturbed, but unless you're inspecting it and double-checking, you don't know that. You don't know whether it's been airborne."

The numbers emerged following revelations in newly released memorandums that a leased government building, Place Vincent Massey in Gatineau, Que., was flagged about eight years ago for potential health concerns because of the presence of chrysotile asbestos — a cancer-causing substance mined by companies in Quebec that the federal and provincial governments say can be used safely.

The government discovered the asbestos following a 2004 survey by a firm, Seacor Environmental Inc., that found the carcinogen in a drywall filler compound on exterior perimeter walls, kitchenette floor tiles, cement parging on pipe fittings and hot water tanks.

The building is leased by the government from the Heafey Group, a Quebec-based real-estate management company.

While the 2010 memos, released to Postmedia News under access-to-information legislation, indicated the asbestos levels did "not pose an immediate health threat," they questioned why management didn't adequately keep track of the toxic substance.

"Both the building owner and Environment Canada representatives would have been aware of the contents of this survey and management plan through regular operations and project meetings," wrote Pierre-Marc Mongeau, the acting associate assistant deputy minister in a June 7, 2010 memorandum to the deputy minister and top bureaucrat at Public Works. "What is not clear is why recently, there was no general knowledge of this information. This will be investigated to ensure better records managements and communications in the future."

Five months later, the associate deputy minister was told that the asbestos was being removed by that building's owner.

"Asbestos remediation is being undertaken in tandem with floor by floor base building work, and is being conducted with safety precautions that exceed provincial standards," wrote John McBain, an assistant deputy minister from the department's Real Property Branch, in a Nov. 17, 2010 memo.

"A communications strategy has been implemented, should Environment Canada employees have any questions or concerns. Environment Canada is comfortable and satisfied with the measures PWGSC has implemented."

McBain also wrote that Environment Canada was "very pleased with the manner in which the renovations are being managed by PWGSC."

The Place Vincent Massey building has generated numerous headlines since Postmedia News reported last July that Environment Canada was planning to buy brand new workstations for the building and would attempt to dump its existing furniture through an online auction after spending about $141,000 to keep it in storage.

It was not immediately clear Sunday whether contractors had finished removing the asbestos, but the renovated floors of the building are expected to accommodate twice as many workstations at the end of the process.

mdesouza@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/mikedesouza

Buildings by province or territory.

Newfoundland and Labrador:

- St. John's: Pleasantville- Bldg. 223; Data Taxation Centre; and NWAFC - 80 East White Hills Rd.

- Bonavista, COCB 21-28 Church Street

- Trepassey, GOCB 108/110 Harbour Drive

- Burgeo, GOCB -1 Main Road

- Grand Bank, GOCB -2 Church Street

Prince Edward Island:

- Charlottetown: RCMP "L" Division Admin and Daniel J MacDonald

Nova Scotia:

- Halifax: Ralston Building; RCMP "H" Division; and GOCB -1713 Bedford Row

- Dartmouth: Marine House 176 Portland St.

- Sydney: Sydney Arts Bldg.; Manpower Bldg.; and Sydney Science Bldg.

- Amherst: GOCB -30-40 Heveloct St

- Antigonish: GOCB -325 Main Street

- Arichat: GOCB -2451 High Road

- Kentville: GOCB -495 Main St

- New Glasgow: GOCB- 340 East River Rd

- Sherbrooke: GOCB -15 Main St.

- Shelburne: GOCB -162 Mowatt St

- Westville: GOCB -1870 Main Street

- Yarmouth: GOCB -15 Willow Street and Fisheries Bldg.

New Brunswick:

- Saint John: Customs Building and Postal Stn A, Annex

- Fredericton: RCMP J 1445 Regent Street

- Moncton: Gulf Fisheries Center and 310 Baig Boulevard

- Clair: C&I Border Crossing 790 Main St.

- Grand Falls: GOCB -373-377 Broadway

- Moncton: GOCB -1075 Main Street

- St. Croix: C&I Border Crossing 2785 Route 4

- St. Leonard: C&I Border Crossing

- Saint Quentin: GOCB -193 Canada Street

- Woodstock: GOCB -380 Main Street

- Shediac: DSS Building 10 Weldon

Quebec:

- Quebec City: Residence du gouverneur (Citadelle); 155 Pte-aux-Lièvres; 165 Pte-aux-Lièvres; 104 Dalhousie; 112 Dalhousie; 130 Dalhousie; 901 Cap-Diamant; 330 Gare du Palais

- Montreal: 1420, Ste-Catherine and 400, Youville/105, McGill, Montreal; and 715 Peel

- Gatineau: Hull Armoury; Portage 1; Portage 2; Portage 3; Portage 4; L'Estrie Language School; Asticou Centre; Bisson Centre; National Printing Bureau; National Printing Bureau CHP

- Sherbrooke: 50 Place de la Cite

- Rigaud: 475 Ch. Grande Ligne

- Sept-Iles: 701 Laure

- Matane: 150 Dion

- Rimouski: 180 de la Cathedrale

- Ste-Foy: 1141 de l'Eglise

- St-Laurent: 3155 Cote-de-Liesse

- Shawinigan: 4695 12e Av

Ontario:

- Ottawa: Booth Administration; Brooke Claxton; Butler Hut; Canadian Police Information Centre; Confederation CHP; Tunney's Pasture CHP; Exhibition Commission; Finance; Finance Annex; Jean Talon; Jeanne Mance; L. H. Nicholson; Main Statistics; National Police Service; R. H. Coats; RCMP CHP; Sir Charles Tupper; Sir William Logan; Major General Pearkes; Place de Ville A/B; Thomas D'Arcy McGee; Health Protection Branch; Capital Square; Anderson Rd #1; Canadian Police College; Chemical and Radioactive Ores; Dressing and Processing Laboratory; Fuel Research Lab; Geological Survey of Canada; Geomatics Canada; Machine Shops and Stores; Ore Dressing Laboratory; Physical Metallurgy Research Lab; Ore Dressing Laboratory; Environmental Health Centre; Laboratory Centre for Disease Control; Willet; General Records; L. B. Pearson; National Library; Personnel Records; Sussex Tower; Tunney's Pasture CHP; Tunney's Pasture CHP Tunnels; National Research Centre CHP; DND Data Centre; Connaught; Taxation Centre; Place Vanier; Film Storage Building; Rideau Falls Laboratory; Federal Studies Centre; Jackson; LaSalle Academy; Plouffe Park; Saint Andrews Tower; PBX; Occupational Health Unit; Radiation Protection; Sir Frederick Banting; Edward Drake; Insurance; Sir Leonard Tilley; Beacon Hill Shopping Centre; Cornwall Armoury; Constitution; Supreme Court of Canada; Animal Disease Research Institute - Bldg. 201; Animal Disease Research Institute - Bldg. 206; Brouse Slater; Central Experimental Farm; Central Experimental Farm CHP; Central Experimental Farm CHP Tunnels; Booth Street Central Heating Plant; CHP - Animal Disease Research Institute; CIBC; Cliff Street CHP; Cliff Street CHP Tunnels; Hope Chambers; Justice; National Capital Commission Garage; National Press; Nelms; Norcano; NRC M-23; Oak Street Complex; O'Brien; East Block; Centre Block; West Block; Wellington; National Press; Brouse/Slater; Booth Street Complex; Bank of Montreal; Dover; Justice; Confederation; Birks; Victoria; La Promenade; Bates; CIBC; Bank of Nova Scotia; Fisher; Langevin; Postal Station B; Hope; Blackburn; Norcano; Saxe; Marshall; O'Brien; Nelms; and Canada Four Corners.

- Toronto: GOCB, 4900 Yonge St; GOCB, 25 St Clair Ave E; GOCB (Dom Public), 1 Front St W; GOCB (Dominion Pblc), 338 Keele; and GOCB (Canada Centre), 200 Town Centre Court; GOCB (AES), Lab Annex; Canadian Atmospheric Research Lab (CARL) - 4905 Dufferin Street; and GOCB (AES), 4905 Dufferin Street.

- Thunder Bay: GOCB (PS "P"), 33 Court; GOCB (Nat Revenue), 201 May St N; GOCB, 130 Syndicate Ave; and GOCB (PS "F"),221 Archibald St N.

- Kitchener: GOCB, 15-29 Duke

- Amherstburg: GOCB, 66 Richmond

- Chatham: GOCB, 10 Centre

- Windsor: GOCB, 441 University Ave and GOCB, 185 Ouellette Ave

- Sarnia: GOCB, 105 Christina St

- London: GOCB, 451 Talbot and GOCB (Dom Public), 457 Richmond

- Brantford: GOCB, 58-70 Dalhousie E

- Niagara Falls: GOCB, 5853 Peer St and GOCB, 4551 Zimmerman Ave

- St. Catharines: GOCB, 32-46 Church St

- Stratford: GOCB, 75 Waterloo St

- Kitchener: GOCB (Nat Revenue), 166 Frederick

- Canadian Forces Base Borden: GOCB (DSS Print Plant)

- Kapuskasing: GOCB, 22 Circle

- Timmins: GOCB, 120 Cedar St S

- Sudbury: GOCB, 19 Lisgar

- Sioux Lookout: GOCB, 45 Prince St

- Fort Frances: GOCB, 303 Scott

- Kenora: GOCB, 100 Fourth Ave

- Tobermory: GOCB, Hwy 6 & Duke

- Chatham: GOCB (Judy Lamarsh), 65 William Street S.

- Sault Ste. Marie: GOCB, 22 Bay St

- Bracebridge: GOCB, 98 Manitoba

- Oshawa: GOCB, 310 Simcoe St S

- Kingston: GOCB (Custom's House), 294 King; GOCB (Old Post Office), 86 Clarence; Caretaker's Residence

- Belleville: GOCB, 11 Station; Regional HQ, 494 Dundas St E; and GOCB, 1 North Front St.

- Parry Sound: GOCB, 74 James St

- Barrie: GOCB, 48 Owen

- Cornwall: GOCB (Sir Lionel Chevrier), 111 Water Street E.

- Sudbury: GOCB (Tax Data Centre), 1050 Notre Dame

- Cornwall Island: Customs Building and Warehouse, Inter. Hwy. Bridge

Manitoba:

- Winnipeg: RCMP 'D' Division Police Divisional Headquarters; RCMP Duplex 1 Units 1 and 2; RCMP Duplex 2 Units 1 and 2; RCMP Medical Ctr Duplex 3 Units 1 and 2; Winnipeg Tax Centre; Cdn Grain Commission Building; Victory Building; Customs Examining Warehouse; Stanley Knowles Federal Building; Winnipeg MacDonald Building; Revenue Canada Warehouse; and Federal Records Centre.

- Selkirk: Shipyard

- Lockport: SALD Warehouse; Lock House at St. Andrews Lock and Dam; Power House at St. Andrews Lock and Dam; and Warehouse at St. Andrews Lock and Dam.

- Brandon: GOCB Brandon Federal Building

Saskatchewan:

- Regina: Alvin Hamilton Building, 1975 -Scarth St.; GOCB Regina 1975 -Scarth St.; and Income Tax Building 1955 - Smith St.

- Saskatoon: GOCB Saskatoon 101 -22 St. E.

Alberta:

- Edmonton: Archives Building

- Red Deer: GOCB Red Deer 4909- 50 St

- Lethbridge: J. D. Higinbotham Building

British Columbia:

- Vancouver: Sinclair Centre - Complex; Library Square; Douglas Jung Building; Harry Stevens Building; Standards Building; Fairmont Complex - Operations #1; Fairmont Complex - Administration #2; Fairmont Complex - Barracks #3; Fairmont Complex - Training Academy #6; Fairmont Complex - VIP Security #5; Fairmont Complex - Generator #7; Fairmont Complex - Storage #8; Fairmont Complex - PCB Storage #9; Fairmont Complex - Storage #10

- Surrey: Surrey Taxation Data Centre; Burnaby Fraser Tax Services Building; and Surrey Federal Operation Building.

- Delta: Annacis Marine Base (#1); Annacis Island Office Building (#2); and Annacis Island Warehouse (#3).

- Richmond: GOCB -12551 No. 1 Rd.;

- Victoria: 1230 Government Street; 816 Government Street; 1415 Vancouver Street

- Nanaimo: GOCB -60 Front Street.

- Port Alberni: GOCB -4877 Argyle Street

- Campbell River: GOCB -940 Alder Street

- Kamloops: GOCB -317 Seymour Street

- Kelowna: GOCB -471 Queensway Avenue

- Penticton: GOCB -277 Winnipeg Street

- Vernon: GOCB -3101 32nd Avenue

- Clearwater: 1121 E Yellowhead Hwy S

- Revelstoke: GOCB -307 3rd Avenue

- Prince George: 280 Victoria Street and 3690 Massey Drive.

- Vanderhoof: GOCB -192 Stewart Road West

- Smithers: 3177 Tatlow Road

- Fort Nelson: GOCB -4804 51st Avenue West

- Prince Rupert: GOCB -417 2nd Avenue West

- Queen Charlotte: GOCB -137 Bay Street

Northwest Territories:

- Yellowknife: Trades Shop Buildings 1 & 2

- Inuvik: Warehouse 1 (Prov Lt B); Warehouse 2 (Prov Lt C); Inuvik Tradeshop (Prov Lt F); GOCB Inuvik 187- MacKenzie Rd; Garage/Appliance Repair Shop (Prov Lt E); Warehouse 3 (Prov Lt D); Warehouse 4 (Prov Lt F); and Warehouse 9621-102 St.

- Norman Wells: 4 Bay Garage -woodland Ave

- Hay River: GOCB Hay River 10 Capital Cres

- Fort Simpson: GOCB Fort Simpson 9606-100 St.; Office Plex 9709-99 St.; and Garage - Ft.

- Fort Smith: GOCB Fort Smith 149 McDougal Rd.

- Yellowknife: Henry Larson Building.

Yukon:

Whitehorse: 419 Range Road; 421 Quonset Huts; 421 Range Road; and Elijah Smith Building.