Municipalities have different protocols when disposing of sandbags after flooding
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
A temporary dike filled with sand and sandbags still lines the waterfront along a portion of St. Charles Avenue in Vaudreuil-Dorion on May 21. Mayor Guy Pilon said the town will recycle the sand and gravel used during the recent flooding for various public works programs such building temporary roads.
With water levels slowly dropping in the Lake of Two Mountains and the Ottawa River, municipalities now have to decide what they’ll do with the piles of sandbags and mounds of sand and gravel used to keep flood waters at bay.
For Terrasse-Vaudreuil which is enduring its fifth week of flooding, Director General Ron Kelley said the town still hasn’t even thought of removing the sandbags.
“We’re not moving them yet,” Kelley told The Journal during a phone call on May 21. “The water has only receded one foot. It still has to go down another foot-and-a-half before the town even considers removing the sandbags. We’re still in medium flood stage,” said Kelley.
“It’s pretty tiring for the people affected in the flood zone so we’re trying to give them as much support as we can. It’s a tough fight, but a better fight this time because we had more time to prepare,” he added.
Sand not considered toxic waste
Kelley said the sand the town used is not toxic waste. “We had this conversation back in 2017. We were sitting at a table at the MRC and one of the people sitting there was from Urgences environnement Québec, a branch of the government that deals with oil spills and other emergencies. He talked about this,” he said.
“What do you mean toxic? Where do you get toxic from? Was there an oil spill or something like that? It’s just water from the lake. People swim in the lake. Unless there’s been a pollutant or something like that, that would be a different scenario. We haven’t had an oil slick,” said Kelley.
The town’s public works department will use the bags for various purposes. “After the flooding, we have a place where we can bring them for sorting. Sometimes if there’s salt in the bag, we’ll keep the salt. We can use it to sprinkle on our walkways. It’s reusable. If it’s sand, we’ll cut open the bags and use the sand elsewhere,” said Kelley.
Mayor Guy Pilon agreed the sand isn’t toxic waste and will also use it for various public works projects. “We’re going to do the same thing we did in 2017. We’re going to put it in a pile and reuse it. It’s good sand and stone so we mix it all together. We can use it for a foundation or a temporary road.
Pilon said assumptions made that the sand is contaminated are wrong. “That means that each time you go into and out of the water at a beach, the sand would be contaminated. The real contamination comes from the fact the material will be mixed. It won’t be 100 per cent sand or stone,” he said.
Ste. Anne de Bellevue
Ste. Anne’s adheres to a protocol to dispose of their sand, said Mayor Paola Hawa. “It’s mandated by the Sécurité civile du Québec. The sandbags are all considered contaminated. A lot of people say make a beach out of them. You can’t do that,” she said.
“The sand is disposed of in a safe manner. I’m not sure what happens to them after it leaves here, whether it’s reconditioned or decontaminated. Once the sand has been on the ground it cannot be used anymore. You have to get rid of it. It’s contaminated,” said Hawa