Sydney residents launch tar ponds lawsuit

Lawyers representing more than 200 Sydney, N.S., residents will give notice of intended action this week on a large lawsuit that claims pollution in the Cape Breton community caused widespread health problems and even death.

Raymond Wagner of Wagner and Associates said yesterday in Halifax that his law firm will shortly issue a notice of action to the Nova Scotia government that will contain the names of about half of the more than 200 claimants taking part in the lawsuit.

A notice of action must be filed against the province before litigation can proceed. This does not apply to the other defendants. The suit names as defendants Nova Scotia Power Corp., CN Rail, the federal government, and Domtar, a company that ran a chemical refracturing plant next to the steel coke ovens. One other potential defendant hasn’t been disclosed publicly.

The notice of intended action expires two months from the time it’s filed, then a statement of claim is issued. At that time the other defendants are brought into the civil action. The first family to file suit against the province in May will be included in this statement of claim.

Since that meeting, the list of residents joining the lawsuit has grown from about 160 to 204, and it’s believed they’re seeking compensation in the tens of millions of dollars. The closed Sydney Steel plant plus the tar ponds and surrounding area are considered Canada’s worst contaminated site. The ponds contain 700,000 tonnes of toxic sludge produced by a century of coke production and steelmaking in Sydney.