Montreal Community Gardens Contaminated

By this time last year, I had already cleaned up my community garden plot and sowed my seeds, after laying down a few bags of organic manure bought from a farmer in the Eastern Townships.

Here is what my plot looked like the first week of May, 2006. You can see Noshette and my garden partner Marc hard at work discussing the future of some chive plants that we eventually moved to our balcony container garden. Notice that we are wearing coats; are you wearing coats in California this time of year?

Here is a photo of my plot in the 3rd week June, 2006:

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the plot in September, when it was at its fullest. By then, we were harvesting tomatoes, carrots, garlic, peas, zucchini, beets, lettuces, beans, and all manner of delicious foods that were grown properly by me, and then eaten by me.

This year I received a phone call in late April, informing me that our community garden season has been postponed due to soil analysis being conducted by the city, and that we will be receiving more information about it in the following weeks.

The information came last week, when we were informed that several of Montreal’s community gardens have been closed because they were contaminated with small amounts of arsenic, copper, lead and zinc. One of the gardens, where a good friend of ours has a plot, has only been partially closed. It seems that only some of the plots were contaminated, but the area where her plot was located was considered ‘clean’, so she was free to use her plot. Understandably, she is hesitant to plant anything because she doesn’t understand why some areas are contaminated and some are not. The City of Montreal, in addition to not making public the names of the contaminated gardens, would not give any explanations or any further information.

Our garden, thankfully, has not been closed. In fact, our garden was not even tested. We think it has do to with the fact that our garden is not located on an old industrial site, which is the case for most Montreal community gardens. Our garden spent its previous life as a schoolyard, and under the 3 feet of relatively young soil lies only gravel and some long lost children’s toys.

I called a few city offices and got nowhere. Since my garden season only begins on May 17, I will have plenty of time to dedicate to getting some answers, so I will try again tomorrow. I want to know why my garden season was postponed if no tests were conducted in my garden. I also want to know what the contamination is from, and if the City plans to decontaminate the soil or sell the land to developers.

5 Responsesto “Montreal Community Gardens Contaminated”

  1. deliberately says:

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  2. jenifer says:

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  3. DairyQueen says:

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  4. Kerry Robb says:

    Your post brings up something that my husband and I have been thinking about lately. Recently we visited a wonderful organic dairy farm, possibly the best I’ve seen, and yet it was surrounded by conventional grapes and cotton, some of the most heavily sprayed/flooded crops in California’s Central Valley. Our question is, how do those of us who are trying to as organic and responsible as possible avoid contamination from such things as nearby spraying and, in your case, old industrial waste? I suppose we can’t avoid it all. so the key is keeping our immune systems ourselves as healthy as possible. If any of you at The Ethicurean have any further insight on this dliemma, I’d love to hear it!
    -Kerry Robb

  5. Holy Epona says:

    I agree with Kerry on the fact that it is vitualy impossible to find produce that haven’t been touched in some way or another by air, water or ground pollution. But it is another story to grow a garden on a former industrial site or landfill. I do not understand how people can expect to grow healthy food in an unhealthy environment.