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In the last century, the industrial sector developed rapidly in response to consumer needs.
Growing environmental concerns in recent decades have prompted steps to reduce industrial wastes and develop industry in a sustainable manner. To achieve that goal, industries must constantly devote substantial effort to prevent, reduce or eliminate their various sources of pollution (gaseous emissions, wastewater, hazardous and non-hazardous residual materials).
Industrial establishments in the primary and manufacturing sectors (22 000 in Québec) extract, treat and process raw material to produce the many goods available to us and that contribute to our quality of life.
These establishments produce a wide range of products (metal materials, food, clothing, paper, chemical products, etc.) and the processes they use generate waste material that is liable to pollute the air, lakes and rivers and soil, and affect all living organisms.
Québec counts some 65 mine sites, 400 quarries, 5 000 sandpits, 130 concrete plants, 1 200 sawmills and 2 200 other manufacturing concerns (paper mills, refineries, cement factories, veneer plants, chemical industries, plastics, textiles and agri-food sectors, etc.) that discharge substantial amounts of wastewater, which is monitored.
The service industry (distribution, commerce, business, etc.) is sometimes associated with the industrial sector. This is the case, for example, with soil protection and contaminated site rehabilitation measures, which target more than 11 000 establishments in 106 industrial sectors and numerous service stations.
The issue of air pollution control concerns approximately 200 large enterprises and 4 500 SMEs, in addition to a number of large industrial users of fossil fuels.
Due to the capacity or operations of major industrial establishments, and with the aim of addressing industrial remediation on the whole, the Ministère developed an action strategy integrating all receiving environments. Known as the Industrial Waste Reduction Program, the strategy targets industrial sectors that cause the greatest harm to neighbouring areas through the release of pollutants and, especially, toxic substances. By the end of its fifth and final phase, the program will cover a total of approximately 300 establishments.