Toxic site meeting set for June 4

Tanya Collier MacDonald
Cape Breton Post
Monday, May 26, 2003 (Page A4)

See March 28 CB Post article on the same topic

The number of residents seeking compensation from adverse impacts believed to be linked to Canada's worst toxic waste site is expected to grow following an information session to be held in Sydney.

Ray Wagner Ray Wagner, of the Halifax law firm Wagner and Associates, is facilitating the meeting to be held at the Steelworkers Hall Wednesday, June 4, at 7 p.m. Also in attendance will be Mike Peerless, a partner with Siskinds law firm in London, Ont. Siskinds is partnering with Wagner and Associates for the Sydney effort and is best known for its efforts on cases involving breast implants, TMJ implants, diet drugs, plastic venting for mid-efficiency furnaces, oil refinery emissions, fireplace design, investment schemes and the e-coli tainted water tragedy in Walkerton. "We felt because the project is so large, it's imperative for us to partner with people because of the work involved and the cost of processing these cases is quite considerable as well," said Wagner.

More than 160 residents have signed on so far, including Iris Crawford, a native of Whitney Pier. She has said the lawsuit was sparked by governments insistence in 2002 that residents living near the contamination sign a waiver before remediation work could be done on their private property. Government offered remediation to residents living north of the coke ovens after soil testing in the community showed extremely high levels of arsenic, lead, toluene, benzene, cadmium and a slew of other contaminants higher than acceptable levels. Government has said the contamination wasn't due to the migration of chemicals from the coke ovens site.
"It's really hard to say how many people will be joining up but as we roll out the statement of claim, more people will likely see it as a viable project and will be interested and will participate."

The matter will likely go ahead as a mass tort, which Wagner described as a large number of people participating in a piece of litigation as the result of a civil wrong and is less specific then a class action lawsuit.

Defendants being considered include the federal and provincial governments plus a number of private companies that operated on or near the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens site when the steel plant was in operation.

Among the allegations residents will be claiming include widespread contamination from a chemical recovery plant, a nearby railbed and the spraying of PCBs to eliminate dust when the steel plant was in operation.

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