Establishment of the National Asbestos Observatory in the Thetford region

by | Feb 3, 2023 | General

Quebec established a National Asbestos Observatory and established it in the heart of the region which was the cradle of asbestos mining in Canada.

On June 16, 2022, the government of Quebec made public its 2022-2025 action plan: “Asbestos and asbestos mining residues in Quebec: towards the transformation of a liability into a sustainable asset”. This plan is based on the recommendations that the Bureau d'audiences publique sur l'environnement (BAPE) presented in its report, published in July 2020, on the management of asbestos and asbestos mining residues.

Based on knowledge of past activities, the action plan aims to develop know-how that will help Quebec better supervise future activities relating to the handling and valorization of asbestos mining residues. The plan also aims to seek solutions to the issues linked to the presence of asbestos in our daily lives and to harmonize laws and regulations relating to asbestos.

The creation of a National Asbestos Observatory (NAO) in the heart of the asbestos region is one of the key measures of the action plan. The Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Energy has given the Cégep de Thetford the mandate to set up an entity that will coordinate research on all issues relating to asbestos. “By gathering and consolidating knowledge relating to the health and environmental impacts of asbestos, NAO will contribute to the transformation of asbestos mining residues into a sustainable asset.” NAO's work will make it possible to assess the impacts of the presence and handling of asbestos mining residues and other products containing asbestos on the environment, on the health of populations and workers as well as on the quality of life of communities. It is through research work that the mission entrusted to the NAO will be carried out and this will be coordinated along three axes:

  • Determining best practices processing and handling of asbestos mining residues in the workplace and in the community;
  • Scientific monitoring about the characterization of dumps, the determination of air, water and soil quality as well as the assessment of health and environmental risks;
  • Supporting the economic transition regions, formerly producing asbestos, in the north and south of Quebec, with a desire to build a green economy.

“This new observatory will help Quebec develop expertise in the safe valorization of various asbestos mining residues, which will create industrial opportunities beneficial to both the economy and the environment. Innovation is the key to growing this new niche, and the region’s know-how will be an asset to attract major investments,” said Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of the Economy, Innovation and Development. Energy, Minister responsible for Regional Economic Development and Minister responsible for the Metropolis and the Montreal region.

“Our government recognizes the risk that asbestos poses to human health and the environment. By proposing an asbestos mining residue management framework that takes into account health, social, environmental and economic aspects, we will be able to meet the challenge of sustainably transforming the impacts of the exploitation of the former white gold of the Quebec. We are aware that this challenge particularly affects the Thetford region, and our government will respond,” mentioned Benoit Charette, Minister of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks and Minister responsible for Laurentides region.

“I am proud to know that the Cégep de Thetford hosts the National Asbestos Observatory, which will coordinate partnerships and research related to all issues relating to asbestos. We will thus be able to acquire unique and exportable know-how, in particular by building, with the private sector, a real sector for the recovery of asbestos residues,” added Isabelle Lecours, MP for Lotbinière-Frontenac and parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Education. .

“Asbestos regions have major challenges to overcome in order to revitalize their environment and support their vitality. They need a new impetus for economic and social development, and the actions they wish to undertake in this direction must be based on their own resources, which they will attempt to transform into assets,” said André Bachand, MP of Richmond and president of the Institutions Commission.

The general director of the Cégep de Thetford, Robert Rousseau, mentions that “the Cégep is honored to be able to contribute by the establishment of the observatory within its walls to the implementation of the action plan on asbestos and asbestos mining residues in Quebec. For its establishment, this is a significant addition to the range of research services and it reminds us in passing that the Cégep is already very active with its two college technology transfer centers and several areas of research in its walls.”

The Cégep de Thetford welcomes the first research observatory in a college environment

Research is well established at Cégep de Thetford, particularly in the technological sectors as well as in science and engineering. Cégep de Thetford is convinced that research and innovation are essential levers to support its mission of offering quality training and ensuring the development of the skills of the college community. It has also expanded its research activities to the human and social sciences in order to improve the quality of life of the population and to support businesses in their social innovations.

When the Quebec government chose to establish the NAO in the heart of the region where asbestos was discovered and then exploited, it naturally chose the Cégep de Thetford. By entrusting him with the mandate to strengthen the development of local economies in a greener and more responsible manner, he created the first scientific observatory in a college environment in Quebec, further emphasizing the Cégep's leading role in research and innovation.

The Cégep de Thetford has appointed Ms. Annie Rochette general director of the ONA in order to set up the Observatory and the research programming that will allow it to achieve the objectives identified in the Action Plan. Holder of a doctorate in chemical engineering and an engineering degree in physical engineering of materials, Ms. Rochette has been involved in research in materials sciences, notably for more than twenty years in college research. She worked at COALIA, the college technology transfer center of Cégep de Thetford specializing in mineral technology and plastics processing, as director for more than 15 years. His research experience, his managerial qualities and his knowledge of the environment and issues related to asbestos are undeniable assets for the successful implementation of the NAO.

About the National Asbestos Observatory

NAO is a research entity dedicated to the development of knowledge and know-how on any subject dealing with asbestos and asbestos mining residues. The NAO brings together university and college researchers, from Quebec and elsewhere, to establish conclusive data with a view to defining best practices for transforming asbestos and asbestos residue from a liability into a sustainable asset. The NAO is funded by the Government of Quebec, under the responsibility of the Ministry of the Economy, Innovation and Energy, and in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of the Environment, Fight against climate change, Wildlife and Parks.