Thursday, May 29, 2003 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

Whitney Pier family suing over tar ponds cleanup

By Paul Schneidereit / Staff Reporter

A Whitney Pier family is suing the federal and provincial governments, a consulting company and eight individuals for injuries and damages in connection with cleanup efforts in Sydney.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, also specifically claims the rupturing of an oil tank, during remediation of a vacant lot next door, caused personal injuries and damages to the family's property at 85 Hankard St., said Raymond Wagner, the lawyer representing Debra Ann King and the estate of her late father, George Roland King.

In addition, aggravated and punitive damages are being sought "because of the way Debra King and her father were dealt with," Mr. Wagner said Wednesday.

The lawsuit names the federal and provincial governments, Conestoga-Rovers & Associates and agent Gary Landry, Greg MacIntyre of Greg MacIntyre Trucking & Backhoe, Parker Donham and Richard Morykot of the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, Rodney Leahey and Terry MacPherson of the Nova Scotia Environment Department, Randy Vallis of Public Works Canada and Afra McVicar, the owner of the vacant lot.

The King family had their property tested for toxic substances but chose not to accept remediation, because they would have had to accept liability for any problems caused by the cleanup, Mr. Wagner said.

Property owners who accepted remediation were offered relocation during the work last summer, but those who did not, like the Kings - although living in the same neighbourhood - were exposed to unhealthy conditions, he said.

The Kings also warned those cleaning up the vacant lot next door about an underground oil tank on that property, but their advice was ignored, Mr. Wagner said. The resulting spill contaminated the Kings' property and adversely affected their health, he said.

This lawsuit is connected to but also separate from "the huge mass tort claim that will be rolled out over the next few months," Mr. Wagner said.

The mass tort, which is similar to a class-action lawsuit, will be making numerous claims of health problems and devalued properties.

In April 2002, Mr. Wagner and his Halifax law firm signed up residents interested in pursuing legal action. He said earlier this month that there could be as many as 160 complainants in the coming months.

The Kings' lawsuit is the second filed by Mr. Wagner's law firm. On May 15, five members of the Lirette family sued Sydney Steel Corp. and the province for the death of a family member, which they said was the result of him living near the government-owned coke ovens and tar ponds sites.