Toxic contamination key to lawsuit

Four Sydney residents listed as plaintiffs in documents filed in Supreme Court

By Tanya Collier MacDonald
Cape Breton Post
Thursday, Mar. 25, 2004

SYDNEY - Accusations of ineptitude and lack of care abound in a statement of claim filed in Supreme Court Wednesday by residents who believe their health and property were compromised by Canada’s worst toxic waste site.

Sydney residents Neila MacQueen, Joe Petitpas, Ann Marie Ross and Iris Crawford are listed as plaintiffs in the document filed in Halifax.

Defendants are Hawker Siddeley Canada Inc., Sydney Steel Corp., Nova Scotia government, Canadian National Railway Company, the federal government and Domtar Inc.

The plaintiffs are holding the defendants liable for battery, nuisance, trespassing, negligence, harm and injuries, family losses, as well as aggravated, punitive and additional damages. None of the allegations contained in the claim have been proven in court.

Ray Wagner, of the Halifax law firm Wagner and Associates, which represents more than 275 plaintiffs involved in the pending lawsuit, said the four residents represent a class of individuals demanding compensation for their alleged losses.

MacQueen, a non-smoker diagnosed with lung cancer in 1999, has suffered from asthma, chronic bronchitis and ear and throat infections she believes result from living near contaminants released by the defendants.

Petitpas, a lifelong resident of Whitney Pier, suffers from unexplained health conditions that include seizures and headaches. He believes his condition is the result of living in a contaminated environment.

Governments relocated Ross from her home near the coke ovens site after she detected an orange goo seeping into her basement in 1999. After living in a nearby hotel with her daughter for more than a month, Ross was told it was safe to return home. The mother suffers from illnesses that include nose bleeds, headaches, burning eyes, water blisters, running nose, frequent sore throat, psoriasis, skin rashes and neurological disorders. She also suffers from anxiety. Ross states that her failing health is the result of living in a contaminated environment.

Crawford is suing the defendants over the death of her husband Carl. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in June 2003 and died five months later. Iris is claiming damages on behalf of her family under the Fatal Injuries Act.

Wagner said the next step is to ask the Supreme Court to allow the matter to proceed as a class action lawsuit. If successful, Wagner said the number of plaintiffs could reach the thousands with each having varying degrees of claims.

Wagner has said the civil case could take between two to six years to resolve and millions of dollars will likely be sought as compensation for the claimants.