SMEC History

Saint-Michel Environmental Complex

450 million years ago

The Miron quarry and TOHU site was located under the sea, 4 degrees south of the Equator. The sedimentary rock found on the site is therefore an old seabed that was once located below the Tropics. This limestone rock contains many types of fossils, which can still be seen today.

Starting in 1699

The Montréal Sulpicians conceded the land to the northwest of Ville-Marie, along an east-west axis called Côte Saint-Michel (today Jarry Street). Montée Saint-Michel (currently the north-south axis occupied by the boulevard bearing the same name) was first built in 1707. The land of the future quarries was used for farming to supply Ville‑Marie, the urban community on the island.

1780

Most sources affirm that the Saint-Michel quarry operations began in the late 18th century.

1820

Quarry production was at its peak between 1820 and 1860. In the late 19th century, operations intensified to the north of Montréal, with the opening of small limestone quarries, including the Limoges, Lapierre and Labesse quarries.

Miron brothers career

The numerous small-scale quarries that survived an intensive period of closures merged in 1920. In the early 1930s, the site of the future Miron quarry was in turn owned by Barbin and Varin, Villeray Quarry, Canadian Quarry, Montreal Quarry and then by Consumer up to 1947.

The Miron brothers purchased their first quarry on the site. In 1954 and 1956, Miron expanded by purchasing adjoining quarries. In 1957, all of these small quarries were amalgamated under the Miron banner.

Miron brothers career

In 1959, the Miron brothers built the cement plant, attached to the quarry, and considerably increased their production. The two red and white chimneys adjoining the quarry were a major landmark for Montrealers, but also a source of pollution for local residents. These 125-m chimneys were used to heat the limestone to convert it into lime, an essential ingredient in the manufacture of concrete. At the time, the quarry supplied the building market with sand, crushed stone, asphalt, cement, and concrete pipes and blocks.

At the peak of its operations, the quarry employed over 2,000 workers on extracting the limestone, many of whom were Italian immigrants. The workers drew significant satisfaction in working to help build the City. Although this quarry caused some inconvenience for local residents, it can be noted that for many, at one time, working at Miron was synonymous with pride.

"It's from this hole that Montréal was built. Central Station, Sainte-Justine's Hospital, the St. Lawrence Seaway, Place Ville Marie and Complexe Desjardins, it was our concrete," recall Louis and Jacques who worked at Miron for 26 years and 11 years, respectively. (La Presse, 9/6/1984)

The Miron brothers decided to sell their quarry to a Belgian consortium. The Mirons’ fortune was estimated at $50 million. The quarry still carries the Miron name, although the family no longer own it.

A landfill

Several poorly controlled blasting sessions caused numerous headaches for local residents. Some had an unenviable geographic location, many of them living less than 100 m from the quarry. Their closeness to the rock extraction site resulted in unfortunate accidents, which served to increase local resentment. The protests made themselves heard, as did spokespeople from the Saint-Michel community.

The Miron company converted a part of the quarry into a landfill site for household garbage. On the Miron’s 192-hectare site, the immense dump covering an area of 75 hectares and 70 m deep was slowly filled with rotting matter, while they continued to extract limestone in other sectors.

From 1968 to 1988, the Miron dump prospered. Millions of tons of all types of waste were buried there (and the City of Montréal continued up to May 2000). The dump includes garbage from Montréal and the surrounding suburbs. With this new activity, came a foul smell (and rats) that the City of Montréal's Department of Health tried to control. Various protest groups came into being.

1971

The Montréal Urban Community announced that it would sue Miron for having exceeded the dust level standards on numerous occasions.

In November, Montréal and Miron signed an agreement to improve the quality of life for local residents: Miron built a 7-ft. high wall around its site and the City created an industrial buffer zone between the quarry and the neighbourhood.

1978

In February, the province’s Environment Minister, Marcel Léger, visited the Saint-Michel neighbourhood to see first-hand the dust and pollution problems caused by Miron. Following the Minister's visit, Miron agreed to invest $3.5 million to participate in the government's anti-pollution measures.

1979

Miron again changed hands, passing into the ownership of a Saudi Arabian company, REDEC. The latter wanted to eat further into the rock, to within 300 feet of the houses.

In June, an agreement was reached on closing a local road and evacuating a park during blasting (at noon and 6 p.m.). In July, the Association pour la défense des droits des Michelois (ADDM) was formed. Its mission was to bring together various organizations and neighbourhood groups to apply pressure against the agreement between Montréal and Miron.

1980

In January, Miron obtained an $8-million contract to produce 100,000 tons of cement for the Société d'énergie de la Baie James.

In May, a victory for the ADDM: Quebec’s Environment department issued an order obliging Miron to respect the Environment Quality Act regarding the management of solid waste.

1984

In May, the City of Montréal acquired the Miron quarry property. This was a $45 million investment.

1986

On October 1, after 40 years of dust and noise pollution, Miron officially ceased its quarry operations. The Saint-Michel residents heaved a sigh of relief, but scarcely three days later, they learned that the overall departure schedule had been postponed, under the pretext of providing time to relocate the quarry’s 700 employees.

According to the municipal offices, the quarry had to vacate its facilities before September 30, 1987. The City petitioned the courts for an injunction against Miron for termination of lease, expulsion and recovery of unpaid rent. The Miron company barred access by the City even though the latter had legally owned the land since 1984.

On October 1, on expiry of the lease between Miron and the City of Montréal, Miron had six months to dismantle all of its facilities. Miron retained only the waste landfill until December 31.

1988

On January 1, the City took possession of the land. On April 17, the two towering chimneys of the Miron incinerator were raised to the ground, and some 50,000 people (mostly from the Saint-Michel neighbourhood) attended the demolition of one of the neighbourhood’s historic symbols.

The City of Montréal nonetheless continued to operate the landfill site on a very large scale, and to apply the standards imposed by Quebec’s Environment department. Its priority was focused on decontamination of the site. The City invested $50 million in the installation of a biogas recovery system.

The Centre de Tri et d’élimination des déchets (CTED) was created to sort the recycling.

1990

In 1988, the City officially takes possession of the Miron Quarry lands. The two chimneys of the cement plant, iconic Saint-Michel landmarks , are demolished in front of some 50,000 people, mainly residents. The Waste Treatment and Disposal Centre is created to manage the sorting of recyclable materials. The Gazmont power station starts converting into electricity biogas extracted from production wells.

1991

Start of environmental monitoring.

1995

In June, Montréal's new mayor, Pierre Bourque, unveiled the first phase of the Saint-Michel Environmental Complex. The project aimed to make waste a resource rather than a nuisance by promoting recycling and composting.

Major works are then carried out in order to allow the reception of all materials together, sparing residents the task of sorting fibres from glass, plastic and metal, as well as to increase the centre’s annual capacity to more than 200,000 tons. The 5 km multi-purpose lane, closing the loop surrounding the SMEC, is completed.

1996

In May, the Gazmont power plant was installed in the south of the SMEC and began the conversion of biogas (highly flammable toxic emissions from rotting garbage) into electricity. A 25-year electricity purchase contract was signed between Gazmont and Hydro-Québec.

The construction of the Cirque du Soleil's international headquarters on 2nd Avenue brought together the Cirque's artistic and administrative activities.

The Jean-Rivard and Champdoré parks were laid out along the site.

1997

In February, the new international headquarters of the Cirque du Soleil were inaugurated.

Open door events were organized, which attracted some 4,000 visitors. The SMEC master plan was adopted.

1999

Inauguration of the Écocentre Saint-Michel, and start of the covering process.

2000

In May, no further rotting garbage was to be dumped on the SMEC. Only inert waste (building waste, dry materials, etc.) was dumped on the site for a further 10 years or so.

Also, only fall leaves were still collected for making compost to totally cover over the quarry hole and convert the site into an urban park. A portion of the compost produced was also distributed free twice a year to City of Montréal residents. Household garbage was sent to the Lachenaie, Sainte-Geneviève, Sainte-Sophie des Laurentides and Saint-Nicéphore sites.

2003

In November, the National Circus School's new premises were officially opened on the corner of 2nd Avenue and Jarry.

2004

Opening of TOHU, the Cité des arts du cirque's public building. This building houses the very first round theatre hall in North America and is the welcome centre for the Saint-Michel Environmental Complex.

2009

The year 2009 marks the official end of landfill operations, with 40 million tons of waste collected. The City undertakes the transformation of the site into an urban park.

Opening of the TAZ, Canada’s largest indoor skate park.

2013

End of the landfill covering phase. Start of the future park landscaping phase.

2017

To emphasize the celebrations of the 375 years of Montreal, several sectors of the park will be open to the public in 2017!

A portion of the park along Papineau Avenue, south of Émile-Journault Street, will be converted into a showcase for visitors to discover the rest of the park. Further north, between the Taz, the new soccer center and the Louvain entrance, visitors will find views of the site and the Olympic stadium through panoramic viewpoints along the renovated multi-purpose lane. On 8th Avenue, the Émile-Journault Est and 2e Avenue entrances will be redesigned, along with the multi-purpose lane, with small panoramic viewpoints to enjoy views of the park and Mount Royal.

Do not miss!
A portion of the wooded area will be open to the public allowing visitors to enter in the heart of the park for the first time! This portion will be connected to the D'Iberville South portion and will include walking paths leading to a gazebo offering breathtaking views of the icons of the Montreal landscape: Mount Royal, the city center and the Olympic Stadium tower. A work of art created by the artist Alain-Martin Richard in collaboration with the Montrealers will also be integrated in this sector. Rest stops and water runoff works will animate the course.

Finally, to complete the development and improve the user experience, thousands of trees, shrubs and ground cover will be planted and signposting and interpretation elements on the history of the CESM will be installed to facilitate orientation And traffic.

Around 2023

In 2023, it will become Montréal’s second largest park with 192 hectares dedicated to sports and leisure activities.

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