MAIN – MORE ABOUT TCE
Shannon, a small community outside Quebec City, learned that it had big problems with its water supply in 2000.
It all started when two local men were passing the time at the local garage. What emerged from that conversation would change the community of Shannon forever: tests on the water in one man’s well had revealed the presence of a powerful chemical.
With that, in December 2000, the community, located just outside Quebec City, learned that they had been drinking contaminated water for years. They would also learn that they were the last to know about the situation.
Shannon is a community of just 2000 people. Its next-door neighbour is a huge military defence complex – Base Valcartier. What the two had in common was water. Everyone in the region would draw water from the same underground source that flowed from the base and into Shannon.
The military complex used an industrial degreasing chemical – TCE – in the 70s, and often buried the residue.
Decades earlier, the military had used vast quantities of an industrial degreasing chemical called TCE – trichloroethylene and buried a lot of the used chemical, not knowing then that it would one day be linked to cancer and birth defects. Over the years, the buried TCE migrated through the sandy soil into the water table, contaminating the region’s water supply.
Read more about TCE.
The military discovered the TCE in their own drinking water in 1997 and switched to a clean well. But, they didn’t tell Shannon. So, for years – until one neighbour mentioned that water test to another – Shannon residents continued to drink contaminated water.
A test of Shannon’s water supply confirmed that the presence of TCE was 200 times the safe level.
Tests of Shannon’s water supply confirmed the presence of TCE at 200 times the safe level. Emergency measures were ordered by Quebec Public Health officials. One of them, Dr. Henri Prud’Homme, said: “As soon as we found out about the contamination, we told them, ‘Don’t touch it. Drink bottled water. And so as not to breathe it in, ventilate your house when showering, doing laundry, dishes or making your meals.'”
For three years after that discovery – while Shannon residents drank from bottled water and showered with open windows – Shannon’s mayor tried to get the Department of National Defence to take responsibility and find a solution for them.
In February 2004, the fifth estate aired its story, ‘The Education of Shannon‘, and the town sued the government. Three weeks later, the Department of National Defence offered to settle.
Shannon’s Mayor, Clive Kiley, tried to get the Department of National Defence to take responsibility for the water problem.
Today, most of Shannon is hooked up to a new aqueduct system connected to a clean well on the base. But, no one trusts that the contamination won’t spread to that well, too. So, Shannon is drilling for its own water source to pump through the aqueduct. But, the $19 million settlement from the DND may run out before they find it. And the town of Shannon may have to take on the big guys again.