A class-action lawsuit launched by residents who claim they were sickened by ground water contamination near CFB Valcartier is finally winding down.


The lawsuit claims hundreds of people living near the CFB Valcartier got sick after the ground water was contaminated with TCE. (Canadian Press)

The residents of Shannon, Que., located a short distance from the military base, claim their health was harmed by exposure to trichloroethylene (TCE) and launched the multi-million dollar lawsuit against the federal government eight years ago.

In December 2000, residents learned the chemical degreaser had been dumped decades earlier and had seeped into private wells near the base and the adjacent town.

Wells in some neighbourhoods contained up to 180 times the level of TCE considered acceptable by Health Canada.

Lawyers representing 2,500 people say the chemical is toxic and people who breathed it in during hot showers, or drank it for years, did get sick.

Government officials told people in the area to stop drinking from their taps in 2000, but never made the link between the chemical and the cases of cancer.

David Lucas, the lawyer representing the federal government, said there’s no evidence to support it.

"They haven't found any excess of cancer with respect to what science considers possible cancers that may be associated with TCE in Shannon," he said.

He said Quebec's public health authorities have closely monitored the situation in Shannon since TCE was discovered in the water.

The government spent millions on finding another water source for the town's residents.

Unusual health problems

Residents claim they've experienced unusual health problems, including as many as 500 cancer cases.

In 2009, researchers participating in the class-action suit said they found a link between cancer rates in Shannon and exposure to TCE.

The case went before the Quebec City court in January 2011, after the lawsuit spent years working its way through various legal steps.

Jean Bernier, vice-president of the Shannon Citizens' Committee, said those involved in the lawsuit are not in it for the money.

He said citizens in the town have been feeling the effects of the contamination for decades and are looking forward to the conclusion of the extensive legal proceedings.

"We're feeling good," he said. "We're very happy that we're close to the end."

Final arguments in the case will take another week at least. Then the thousands of documents and claims presented during the course of the 11-months of hearings will be in the hands of the judge.