Art project is ‘about the water we drink’

Albert Kramberger
The West Island Gazette, December 21, 2011

Students painting wildlife inspired to try to restore Bouchard Creek

As part of an art project focusing on local fauna, some high school seniors became aware of Bouchard Creek and are now seeking assurances that it be re-naturalized and its ecological function as an aquatic habitat be restored.

Bouchard Creek is a 2.8-kilometre stream that starts on airport property in Dorval, meanders through an industrial park, under Highway 20 and flows into Lake St. Louis, just up stream from a water intake used by the filtration plant in Lachine. It also happens to pass by a new multi-unit residential development along Bouchard Ave. and then heads underground through a nearby Bell Canada property before emptying into the lake.

“The stream is important because the discharge is just up stream in Lac St. Louis from Montreal’s water intake and what happens is that if there is ever a massive spill, your industrial chemicals, it may endanger Montreal’s water intake,” said environmentalist Daniel Green from the Société pour vainer la pollution, who collaborated with students from Collège St. Louis on their project.

“They need to isolate this stream from all possible spills on the Dorval airport area, condemn all visible pipes now discharging into the creek. The stormwater drains are often the drains that receive the spills of chemicals from the Dorval industrial (park).

“They also need to create vegetation buffer zones on either side of Bouchard Creek to protect it from erosion,” he added.

The stream has been around for thousands of years and helps to prevent flooding and acts as a filter for water heading to the lake, Green pointed out. A committee of students involved in the art project have proposed a resolution, already presented to the Lachine borough and eventually to be given to Dorval, asking for their support to restore the stream. The students have also written to Bell Canada asking them to take up the challenge of restoring Bouchard stream. Since it is now channelled about four metres underground near the Bell parking lot at 200 Bouchard Ave., it prevents the development of a natural ecosystem that filters water run-off and improves its quality, according to the students.

Artist Maja Vodanovic, whose daughter attends the Lachine school, led the students through their efforts, from realizing their artwork to lobbying for an environmental cause.

“I wanted to do an art project with them that has an optimistic outlook,” she said, adding the intent was to paint local wildlife.

Vodanovic said the students want to work in collaboration with municipal officials and Bell Canada to restore the stream.

“We’re not accusing Bell of being the bad guys,” she said. “This was done 20 or 30 years ago when the parking lot was built.”

An ideal solution would be if the section of the stream currently channelled underground through the parking lot could be diverted to ground level and redirected through a park area situated between the Bell property and the adjacent Queen of Angels school, Vodanovic said.

The students plan to organize a cleanup of the stream, plant trees and shrubs along its banks and embark on an awareness campaign to make the neighbouring industries aware of the presence of the stream and the need to protect it.

“In the end, it’s about the water we drink, and we can see the whole stream is polluted,” said Collège St. Louis student Anh Thy Le Quang.

Since art was involved from the get-go, Mélanie Branchaud said fellow students were more motivated to take on an environmental cause.

“It made it easier for people to come support us,” she said. “It’s a way for us to express ourselves.