Water system on the way; legal fight continues

Photo: Pierre Little

File Photo: Shannon Mayor Clive Kiley above points to the new location of the municipality’s water pipeline and resevoir at a news conference in Shannon February 13, 2009.

A new water system, supplying 70 percent of Shannon's population with clean water, should be ‘'fully operational'' by next May, even as attorneys for plaintiffs in Shannon and the federal government continue to spar over a lawsuit filed against the government.

Shannon Mayor Clive Kiley said he expects a new reservoir to be finished by Christmas, while three new wells are ‘'ready to be operational'' with only ‘'one little section'' of the new public water system to complete.

By January or February, he said, pump houses around three new wells dug for the project are expected to be completed.

Kiley said construction was ahead of schedule, with an assist from Mother Nature.

‘'We're getting ahead of ourselves because we've had bloody nice weather,'' Kiley said.

The other 30 percent of Shannon was unaffected by the contamination, Kiley said.

The federal government is hoping the completion of the construction work will solve pollution problems caused by a chemical called tricholorethylene, or TCE, a solvent used to remove grease from metal parts.

Defense Ministre Peter MacKay said as much while addressing Parliament last week, saying that a lawsuit filed on behalf of Shannon residents ‘'no longer qualifies as a class action'' since the government has spent tens of millions of dollars rectifying the situation.

MacKay at the same time promised to continue to try to find solutions for any problems occurring as a result of the contamination situation.

Attorneys for the residents, however, took a different view. Charles Veilleux and Stephen Clark, who represent the plaintiffs in the class action suit and were interviewed on the issue last by CBC, said any decision to drop the case would be premature.

Shannon sits adjacent to the military base where the solvent was used for decades before the government discovered the presence of contamination in 1997 and began using a clean water source. The government, however, failed to notify the residents, who learned of the presence of the pollutant three years later when one resident disclosed to a neighbor that tests had shown traces of the chemical, linked to cancer and birth defects, in his well water.

Residents had continued to unknowingly drink the contaminated water until the discovery in 2000.