TCE problem causes class action suit.

Group meets to discuss class-action lawsuit over ground contamination 1

By Brendan Wedley, Peterborough Examiner

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 10:39:31 EDT PM


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A group of residents and former residents of the neighbourhood around the former Outboard Marine Corp. is considering a class-action lawsuit for damages from the contaminated site.

The group of about 30 people met at the Canadian Canoe Museum, which sits on the former industrial site, on Monaghan Rd. on Tuesday to consider its next steps. It heard from a pair of lawyers from a Toronto firm that specializes in environmental law, but didn’t decide whether to start working toward a class-action lawsuit.

The people decided to formally form a group and meet again.

Their concerns stem from the trichloroethylene (TCE) contamination in the groundwater beneath their homes. They expressed concerns about property values and they spoke about health concerns.

Recent testing inside some of the homes in the neighbourhood found that the levels of TCE vapours was very low, but Peterborough medical officer of health Dr. Rosana Pellizzari has acknowledged that any level of exposure to the chemical causes a risk of cancer.

The people at the meeting on Tuesday discussed options such as asking the local health unit to do a comprehensive health study and lobbying the governments to make it mandatory to notify residents about contamination affecting their homes.

Dave Lavallee, who owns a house on Romaine St., explained the importance of organizing as a group to try to respond to the contamination issues.

“All of this was done with Walkerton and many other environmental cases,” he said.

The group quietly listened to presentations from lawyer David McRobert, who owns a house in Peterborough and is a former in-house counsel for the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, and lawyers Paula Boutis and Laura Bowman from Iler Campbell LLP in Toronto.

Peterborough County-City Health Unit hosted its own meeting last month with Ministry of the Environment officials on hand to answer questions from residents.

At the meeting last month, results were presented from testing in 26 homes along Romaine and Brioux streets earlier this year. Only three of those homes had TCE levels above 0.5 micrograms per cubic metre, with the highest level being 2.58 micrograms per cubic metre.

A person who is exposed to a TCE level of 0.5 micrograms per cubic metre over a 70-year life has a one-in-one-million risk of cancer, Pellizzari has said.

The Ministry of the Environment is going to do a second round of testing in the winter. It’s trying to find out how much TCE vapours are rising from the groundwater, through the soil and up into homes through cracks in foundations or dirt floors in unfinished basements.

It’s a fundamental environmental injustice issue, McRobert said, mentioning stories in the neighbourhood about an unusually high number of cases of cancer.

“This needs to be addressed in some kind of manner… to make sure that these kind of situations don’t emerge in the future,” he said.

Outboard Marine Corp. Canada operated on the properties near Romaine St. and Monaghan Rd. from 1956 to 1989. It had been an industrial site since 1913.

After the company went into receivership, the provincial government hired a company to do cleanup and containment of contamination on the properties. About 40,000 tonnes, or 2,300 dump truck loads, of contaminated soil was removed from the properties in 2002. And the ministry is overseeing ongoing monitoring and treatment of the groundwater contamination to prevent the spread of the plume.

McRobert referred to the Northstar Aerospace $3-million settlement for TCE contamination in Cambridge, Ont. in 2009.

“We do have these legacies to deal with,” he said.


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