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Water Quality near CFB Valcartier (merged)


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QUEBEC — Marie-Paule Spieser lost her best friend to a rare form of liver cancer in September of 2000. As an experienced nurse in her mid-40s, Ms. Spieser knew something had to be wrong.

Her friend's husband had also been diagnosed with cancer and it seemed nearly every household in the neighbourhood where she lived was stricken with some form of the disease.

Then a few weeks later, just before Christmas, Ms. Spieser along with the 4,000 other residents of Shannon, a small town located just outside the Valcartier military base near Quebec City, learned that their water supply had been contaminated for years with the chemical solvent trichloroethylene, or TCE, a probable carcinogen.

Eight years later, Ms. Spieser, who has also suffered health problems allegedly caused by high levels of TCE found in her home's drinking water, is now the leading plaintiff in a huge class-action suit that includes 243 current residents with cancer allegedly linked to TCE. The lawsuit has ballooned to more than 1,300 people, including many with other illnesses allegedly linked to TCE and relatives of deceased persons who once resided in Shannon. According to lawyers, the number could eventually reach as many as 2,000.

“I still live in Shannon and I can't wait to leave,” Ms. Spieser said Friday. “It is scandalous. In a news report yesterday we learned that the federal government knew about the contamination as far back as 1978, yet they did nothing to warn people. What were they doing?”

As word spreads across the country to the hundreds of military families and former residents who lived in Shannon between 1953 and 2003, the case may turn into the biggest class-action suit of its kind in North America.

“A lot of people on that military base got cancer. … So it's bigger than just a lawsuit. It's really a deep wound to the heart of small-town Canada,” said Stephen Clarke, one of the group's lawyers.


May be of interest to some here.


Michael OLeary

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The federal Department of Defence, as well as the current owners of SNC Technologies, are among those named in the class-action suit.

From this line in the news story it would appear they are trying to sweep up all possible sources, in hope of proving someone liable.

Trichloroethylene (wikipedia link)


Trichloroethylene is an effective solvent for a variety of organic materials.

When it was first widely produced in the 1920s, trichloroethylene's major use was to extract vegetable oils from plant materials such as soy, coconut, and palm. Other uses in the food industry included coffee decaffeination and the preparation of flavoring extracts from hops and spices. It has also been used for drying out the last bit of water for production of 100% ethanol.

From the 1930s through the 1960s, both in Europe and North America, Trichloroethylene (Trimar and Trilene) was also used as a volatile gas anesthetic. Supplanting chloroform and ether for a significant period of time, trichloroethylene demonstrated superior efficacy in induction times and cost-effectiveness.

It was also used as a dry cleaning solvent, although tetrachloroethylene (also known as perchloroethylene) surpassed it in this role in the 1950s.

Trichloroethylene has been widely used as a degreaser for metal parts. However, in the late 1950s, the demand for TCE as a degreaser began to decline in favor of the less toxic 1,1,1-trichloroethane. Another problem with employing trichloroethylene as a degreaser is that it's just too good a solvent in certain mechanical applications, as it easily will strip many paints almost instantly and dissolves some plastics. However, 1,1,1-trichloroethane production has been phased out in most of the world under the terms of the Montreal Protocol, and as a result trichloroethylene has experienced a resurgence in use in this application.

I wonder which use they feel was employed at a military base to have sufficient waste that could have poisoned the local water system.  I wonder if they've dug deep enough (pardon the pun) to determine when an where all the local dry cleaners were operating in that time period, and what they might have been doing with their used solvents.

Nfld Sapper

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The federal Department of Defence, as well as the current owners of SNC Technologies, are among those named in the class-action suit.

So that means there is a Provincial Department of Defence?


Retired AF Guy

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NFLD Sapper said:
So that means there is a Provincial Department of Defence?


Its Quebec, wait for it. They have their own immigration dept after all.  ;D


Army.ca Legend
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The TCE was used at IVI in the ammunition production process.  TCE is a cleaning solvent used to degrease the shell casings in the manufacturing process. 

IVI was managed, at one time, by SNC Lavalin.  At one time IVI was a major ammo producer for the US Military.

For the most part, DND had nothing to do with the TCE contamination BUT as the base is right across the street, we're sorta stuck with the TCE problem now that the plant is closed.

Nfld Sapper

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MOD SQUAD move to the appropriate section if needed.

DND denies blame for cancer in Shannon, Que.
Government answers lawsuit over contaminated water near base
Last Updated: Friday, January 29, 2010 | 8:39 PM ET
CBC News


Marie-Paule Spieser is one of 600 residents of Shannon, Que., who have signed a class-action lawsuit over water tainted with trichloroethylene, or TCE. (CBC)

The federal government denies responsibility for hundreds of cancer cases at the heart of a class-action lawsuit filed over allegations of contaminated water near CFB Valcartier in Quebec.

Residents of Shannon, outside Quebec City, are seeking more than $200 million in damages for health problems they say were caused by water tainted with an industrial solvent used on the military base in the 1950s.

The class-action lawsuit filed by about 600 residents alleges Shannon's water table was contaminated with trichloroethylene, or TCE, a substance Health Canada has said is a potential carcinogen.

In a statement of defence filed Friday in Quebec City, the federal government acknowledges a link between TCE and certain forms of cancer.

'They will answer to why they never, in the history of all this dumping, developed any way to protect the people of Shannon.'
— Stephen Clarke, lawyer for residentsHowever, people living in Shannon were not exposed to high enough concentrations over a long enough period to become ill, the government says in the 70-page document.

Tests have revealed local wells were only affected by TCE during the 10 years of the 1990s, the statement of defence said. The scientific community did not predict until the 1980s that the TCE could have an impact on the quality of the groundwater, it said.

Plaintiffs welcome document
The statement of defence provides certain admissions that are helpful to the residents, said lawyer Stephen Clarke, one of the lawyers arguing the case.

"The fact that the government of Canada, after seven years, is admitting that there are cancers connected to TCE, is amazing to us," Clarke said. "They will answer to why they never, in the history of all this dumping, developed any way to protect the people of Shannon."

Clarke said he intends to prove there is evidence a dozen barrels of the toxic chemical were dumped near the base each month over a 20-year period.

"The exact year that it reached the town of Shannon, we feel we can establish within a degree of reasonable scientific certainty, would be the 1950s, or 60s," Clarke said.

Clark is hoping the case will be argued in the fall. The government, however, hopes to have the case thrown out, according to the statement of defence.

The document also describes how the Department of National Defence has spent $60 million to find the source of the problem and provide a clean source of drinking water to the people of Shannon.

Read more: Quebec town can sue DND over tainted water: court

Researchers find link between chemical, cancer in Shannon, Que.

The Fifth Estate: The Education of Shannon

Government's statement of defence


Nfld Sapper

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Presence of TCE in Groundwater at Valcartier Garrison
BG–03.062 - April 23, 2004, January 30, 2004 Updated January 29, 2010
BG–03.062 - February 5, 2010

DND undertook an environmental investigation in 1997 when it discovered levels of trichloroethylene (TCE) in the aquifer under the Valcartier Garrison at Defence R& D Canada- Valcartier (DRDC Valcartier) property. Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a chemical that is commonly used as an industrial cleansing solvent.

This environmental investigation was undertaken to ensure the health and well being of the residents and employees of the Valcartier area, who were made aware of the situation very early in our studies and who have been consulted continuously since then.

In December 2000, DND learned that TCE was present in some private wells located in the Municipality of Shannon, bordering CF Garrison Valcartier. The federal government has provided funding to the Municipality of Shannon to connect affected homes to the garrison's extended water supply system and to eventually have its own water system.

Since 1997, every reasonable measure has been taken to better understand the TCE's distribution pattern and to identify possible sources. Two major independent studies have been completed and are available to the public (see links below). As a result of these investigations, sources of TCE in the groundwater have been discovered at Defence R&D Canada – Valcartier, and on an adjacent property belonging to SNC Technologies Inc.

Nonetheless, the garrison water supply meets all federal and provincial drinking water guidelines. Water is drawn exclusively from wells that are closely monitored for the presence of TCE.

Legal Action by the Municipality of Shannon
The Municipality of Shannon filed on December 8, 2003 with the Superior Court of the Province of Quebec a lawsuit against the Government of Canada, Groupe SNC Lavalin Inc., SNC Lavalin Inc., and SNC Technologies Inc in relation to  the TCE contamination of the groundwater and drinking water in the municipality of Shannon. The municipality was seeking, among other things, $41.3 million for the extension of the water distribution system and the establishment of a new source of water for the municipality and $15 million in punitive damages. The municipality was also seeking a permanent injunction ordering the Defendants to stop the contamination in the municipality and an order to proceed with the decontamination.

On April 23, 2004, the Minister of National Defence announced that the action was settled out-of-court.  Without admitting liability, DND agreed to provide $19 million to the Municipality of Shannon for the development of a potable water supply and connection of homes to this supply. The homes that were connected are those to the south east of the Jacques Cartier River and some homes located on the north side of the Jacques Cartier River within proximity of Gosford Road. As part of the settlement, the municipality of Shannon agreed to drop their lawsuit against DND and SNC Lavalin.

On 10 Feb 09, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs announced that the Government would spend $13.3M to complete construction of new water mains in Shannon The payment is made pursuant to the government's policy on infrastructure renewal and economic development and without admission of liability.  The payment is unrelated to the class action by the citizens of Shannon and the action by the Municipality of Shannon settled in 2004.

Class Action

A resident of the municipality of Shannon, Marie-Paule Spieser, filed on December 19, 2003 with the Superior Court of the Province of Quebec a motion seeking to obtain the authorization to institute a class action against the Government of Canada, Groupe SNC Lavalin Inc., SNC Lavalin Inc., and SNC Technologies Inc. (now Société immobilière Valcartier Inc. and General Dynamics Produits de défense et systèmes-tactiques Canada Inc.) in relation to the presence of TCE in the groundwater of the municipality of Shannon. In March 2007, the Québec Superior Court authorized Mrs. Spieser to begin a class action on behalf of residents or those who have resided in the Municipality of Shannon after 1953 who were affected by the presence of TCE in the groundwater of the Municipality.  The Plaintiff estimates the damages at $2 billion and the class to include approximately 3000 individuals.

In August 2009, the Court refused the Plaintiff’s motion to modify the class action by adding further contaminants as harmful chemicals to be examined by the Court.

On January 29, 2010 the Government of Canada (GoC) presented its statement of defence in this action:

•The Crown did not commit any fault (tort) and even if it did, there is no causal link between the alleged contamination and the alleged health problems;
•The residents whose wells were not found to have TCE should not be included in the class because they have not been exposed to TCE through their drinking water;
•The Plaintiff's data indicates that only 40 wells showed a TCE concentration greater than Health Canada's TCE recommended level of concentration in drinking water. Note that only 28 wells (21 in the action) have TCE level of concentration greater than the provincial norm;
•Most of the cancers alleged by the Plaintiffs as being caused by TCE, are not recognized by the current scientific knowledge as being cancers associated with  TCE exposure;
•The concentration of TCE found in the wells does not give rise to any cancer or other ill effects known to be associated to TCE exposure;
•The GoC has taken all the necessary measures to ensure the provision of potable water to the residents of Shannon, and to identify the problem, find solutions and inform the appropriate authorities;
•The GoC used and disposed of TCE in accordance with the scientific knowledge and the legislative requirements applicable at the time.
DND continues to monitor the presence and movement of TCE on its property and report these findings to the appropriate authorities, including the Municipality of Shannon and the City of Quebec and their residents. DND and the local Garrison maintain an open and co-operative relationship with staff and neighbors, and are committed to working with all parties in order to co-operatively and fairly address this matter and to find long-term solutions.

Note to editors:
Please note that access to these reports is provided as a courtesy only. Therefore, they are in the language in which they were communicated to us:
An English executive summary is available in both documents.

Hydrogeology settings and modeling of groundwater flow in the Val-Belair valley in relation to the presence of TCE in the Valcartier area (December 2008). ( PDF - 543 Kb )

Sanexen 2003rapport_final ( PDF 5.58 Mb)

The Bread Guy

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A "bump" with the latest from DND's Info-machine:
The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, has issued the following statement concerning the decision of the Québec Superior Court in the class action suit brought on behalf of the residents of the Municipality of Shannon:

“Mr. Justice Bernard Godbout of the Québec Superior Court has just rendered his decision in the class action lawsuit initiated on behalf of the residents of the Municipality of Shannon, who sought compensation for damages allegedly linked to the presence of trichloroethylene (TCE) in the region's groundwater.

Mr. Justice Godbout upheld the position of the Government of Canada to the effect that the evidence did not establish a causal link between the health problems alleged in the suit and exposure to TCE.  The judge awarded, however, a lump sum financial compensation of up to $15,000 to those adults whose residences were connected to the waterworks system the Municipality of Shannon between December 21, 2000 and December 31, 2001 because of the inconveniences. This represents approximately 160 residences.  We will review the decision in order to evaluate next steps.

DND will continue to work closely with the people concerned and with local municipal representatives to ensure good water quality for the residents of Valcartier Garrison and the surrounding area benefit from a supply of clean water.”

More from CBC.ca:
A Superior Court judge has ruled that there is no link between contaminated water in Shannon, Que., a small town near Quebec City, and cases of cancer in the community.

Judge Bernard Godbout acknowledged the government did contaminate the water and awarded a maximum of $15,000 in compensation to about 300 people for inconveniences caused by disruption to water services and wells.

Residents, who claim they were sickened by ground water contamination near the CFB Valcartier military base, say they're disappointed with the ruling.

Caroline Duplain is one of 3,000 residents who signed on to the class action lawsuit. She told the CBC she was diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago and her father died of multiple brain tumors over a decade ago. "I feel so sad. I told my mother this morning, 'my father's death cannot be in vain. Something good has to come of this.'" ....