Clean water welcomed in Shannon, Que.
Town found out a decade ago its private wells were contaminated
The town of Shannon, Que., near the CFB Valcartier military base, has a new water source that will supply more than half the town with clean drinking water.
"It's something that is going to be important to all our generations to come — that we can say that Shannon has a perfectly safe water source," Shannon Mayor Clive Kiley said as he opened the town's new potable water supply facility Tuesday.
The new water supply will reach 900 homes and close to 2,400 people, in the town which has a population of 4,443.
In 2000, Shannon residents with private wells found out their water was contaminated with trichloroethylene (TCE), a chemical degreaser used at the nearby military base in the 1950s.
After using the industrial solvent, the military buried substantial amounts of it, and the chemical seeped into the town's water table.
Years later, TCE was found to be linked to cancer and birth defects.
About 600 residents have filed a class action lawsuit against the federal government seeking $200 million in damages for health problems caused by water contamination.
The government has denied responsibility, acknowledging the link between TCE and certain forms of cancer, but says Shannon residents were not exposed to a high enough concentration of the chemical over a long enough period to become ill.
Kiley said the extent of the contamination made it difficult to find a new underground source of water that was truly safe.
"We did have to put in 26 experimental wells before we found the quality and quantity that we needed," he said.
The federal government took care of the cost of finding a new water source, totalling $35.8 million.
Elizabeth Poulin lives in what some residents have called the 'red zone,' where private wells were contaminated with up to 600 times the acceptable level of TCE.
She has a separate filtration system, but after Tuesday's announcement, Poulin said she's now thinking of reverting back to town water.
Serge Carrier attended the news conference because he said he wanted to hear first-hand that the town's water was safe.
Carrier said the contamination saga was hard on the town's reputation.
"Some people tried to sell their house but it didn't work because ... they were especially on the bad side there, where it was worse contaminated," Carrier said.
Land developer Sylvain Boisvert said Shannon's tainted reputation will get better now that the town has an independent, clean water source.
Shannon resident Robin Daigle said despite Tuesday's announcement, he still doesn't trust the town's water.
Daigle said he has also lost all trust in the federal government because residents were not warned about the dangers of TCE as soon as officials were made aware of the problem.
The Valcartier military base found out its own drinking well was contaminated in 1997, but didn't inform Shannon officials.