Chuck Charlebois, president of Groupe Renaissance Group, speaks with a supporter at a protest Monday afternoon.
CORNWALL, Ontario - Dozens of people gathered on Harbour Road in Cornwall to protest the construction of a pair of chemical tanks that have created a storm of criticism.
City officials, residents and business people were among the 75 who stood in the snow and condemned the plan to build a pair of calcium chloride tanks on the waterfront.
The new tanks will be used by Trillium Distribution to store calcium chloride, a chemical used to melt ice, and act as a dust suppressor on roads and highways.
The lease agreement between Trillium and Transport Canada, which owns the property, has sparked outrage among many who argue residents were not consulted on the move.
City hall was likewise shut out of discussions.
"That thing has got to stop - period," said Chuck Charlebois, as he gestured to crews who continued to build the tanks during Monday's protest. "It doesn't make sense when everyone else in the world is developing their waterfront for residential use and other positive things."
But MP Guy Lauzon, who attended the protest and spoke with local officials, while also touring the construction site, said it's not likely the work can be stopped.
"I can understand the concern of the local residents," said Lauzon, who said he found out about the work Dec. 5. "I'm not sure that it can be stopped. But I think it can be mitigated.
"Let's do what's right. The right thing to do is...pay due respect to the waterfront and the residents of Cornwall, but also pay due respect to the person who, in good faith, entered into that lease."
That sentiment might not wash well with those who fought to get an oil tank farm removed from the property years ago, only to see it replaced with two other tanks.
Bob Pelda, president of RMP Development which has spent millions of dollars renovating the old cotton mill district adjacent to the tank property, expressed frustration at the move.
"I was shocked," he said. "We've come a long way in our planning and spent close to $3.5 million on the next development.
"(Transport Canada) has ignored the wishes of the 25 years of planning that have gone into place here. And the environmental cleanup that has occurred - are we just going to ignore everything that has happened in the past and just do whatever they would like to?"
The tanks are expected to be largely underground, though they will still be visible.
The agreement between Transport Canada and Trillium Distribution was signed this fall.
Representatives from Trillium have refused to comment on this story.
Kevin Hargreaves, president of the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce which spearheaded Monday's protest, said residents are fed up.
"There's been a lot of work that has gone on over the years to improve the waterfront," he said. "This will definitely take away from those plans."