Power outages and other safety issues discussed at public meeting

L'Isle-aux-Allumettes public services meeting participants: Hydro Quebec Engineer Francois Noiseux, MRC Pontiac Warden Jane Toller, L'Isle-aux-Allumettes Mayor Corey Spence, and Hydro Quebec Community Relations Advisor Alain Paquette.

Peter L. Smith
Local Journalism Initiative

L’ISLE-AUX-ALLUMETTES – A public meeting organized by the Upper Pontiac municipalities was held September 14 at Harrington Community Centre where representatives from Hydro Quebec (HQ) and other essential public service providers spoke about their organizations. Close to 60 people including MRC Pontiac Warden Jane Toller, Waltham Mayor Odette Godin, Sheenboro Mayor Doris Ranger, L’Isle-aux-Allumettes Mayor Corey Spence, Chichester Mayor Donald Gagnon, municipal staff, other elected officials and representatives of the Pontiac Ouest Fire Safety Services attended.

Alain Paquette, HQ community relations advisor, and his colleague Francois Noiseux, HQ engineer, spoke about a study conducted after the February 2023 hydro outage in the Upper Pontiac. They emphasized how unique the power system in the western part of the MRC Pontiac is, given that it has been synchronized with the Ontario system for years.If necessary, it can be synchronized and supplied by the Quebec system, which was done for a period during one of the outages as well as another short-term solution of setting up industrial generators as a connecting link.

The MRC Pontiac experienced 40.2 hours of outages in 2022, compared to 80.5 hours since the beginning of 2023. In some instances, some municipalities were without hydro for more than 100 hours. Weather issues such as high winds (May 21 and July 21, 2022), a major winter storm (December 23, 2022), an ice storm (April 5, 2023) and heavy rains and strong winds in July and August 2023 are responsible for most of the outages.

Many improvements have been made to address the outages, such as pruning near and under hydro lines and cutting trees likely to cause issues. Hydro line workers inspected many of the lines that supply the region, resulting in grid adjustments and pruning. More maintenance is planned. “Other long and short term solutions are under study, requiring major investments,” stressed the HQ representatives.

Many residents expressed concern for resident safety during outages, especially with the high senior population. Cell service is very poor in many areas and many rely on electricity for heat and medical services, so reliable hydro is essential.

Other speakers included Sergeant Yves Martineau from Sûreté du Quebec who spoke about the department’s duty to keep the community safe. He answered questions about the 911 service and what to do when accidentally placing emergency calls. He detailed stats from L’Isle-aux-Allumettes since January 1; the highest number of incidents reported were related to mental health issues.

Emile Trudel and Marie-Josee Roy from the Ministry of Public Security spoke about natural disasters like flooding and homeowner responsibilities when seeking compensation. Toller asked if all claims from previous floods have been settled; some files remain open, noted the representatives.

Nicole Boucher Larivière and Marie-Line Laroche from the Centre intégré de santé et des services sociaux de l’Outaouais (CISSSO) spoke about health care in the Pontiac and services available at the Pontiac Community Hospital in Shawville and CLSCs in Chapeau and Mansfield. They also explained the 811 service available 24/7 for medical issues prior to going to the ER (choose Option 1 for a nurse) or to speak with a social worker. For those without a family doctor, the service can also put them in touch with a doctor from a local clinic.

TransporAction Pontiac was unable to send representatives, but provided information brochures on their services.