Residents excluded from class action over water contamination in Shannon, Que., to get compensation

·2 min read
The drinking water in parts of Shannon, Que., was contaminated with the toxic degreasing chemical trichloroethylene for decades. (Maxime Corneau/Radio-Canada - image credit)
The drinking water in parts of Shannon, Que., was contaminated with the toxic degreasing chemical trichloroethylene for decades. (Maxime Corneau/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Residents who were left out of a class-action lawsuit for water contamination in a small town northwest of Quebec City are finally eligible to receive compensation after drinking water polluted with trichloroethylene (TCE), a carcinogenic degreasing agent, for decades.

A panel of judges at Quebec's Court of Appeal unanimously agreed to modify an order made last year for the federal government and two private companies, Valcartier Real Estate Corporation and General Dynamics, to compensate residents affected by the contamination.

But the residents of Cannon Street technically live in neighbouring Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier, disqualifying them from making a claim for damages — even though their water is supplied by Shannon.

The defendants' lawyer, Charles Veilleux, told Radio-Canada the court's omission was "accidental" and said he asked for a correction when he found out.

He says this change means about 300 more households can now seek compensation.

Michel Major, who lived on Cannon Street with his wife and daughter from 1996 to 2000, told Radio-Canada that he was happy with the decision.

"It's definitely good news," he said. "I never understood why that street had been excluded, because it was connected to the same water system."

The Shannon Citizens' Committee, a group of local residents, asked to go ahead with the class action in 2003 after discovering that TCE had been leaching into their drinking water for decades, putting them at high risk of cancer.

The pollutant was first found in the water supply system at the Valcartier military base near the town in 1997, and in private wells in Shannon three years later.

Radio-Canada
Radio-Canada

Those who lived in the affected areas between 1995 and 2006 can claim $750 for each month they were there, for a total amount of up to $63,000.

Veilleux told Radio-Canada that he is having trouble reaching some of the eligible residents, because they think it's a scam and worry about divulging personal information.

"It's not easy to convince them that they are eligible for such a high amount of compensation — it's not just $50," he said.

Residents have until July 12, 2022, to claim their compensation.

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