Fort McMurray First Nation launches $16-million class-action lawsuit against coal company for massive toxic waste spill into Athabasca River in Alberta

Fort McMurray First Nation launches $16-million lawsuit against coal company by Ryan Cormier, November 25, 2015, Edmonton Journal

The Fort McMurray First Nation has launched a $16-million lawsuit against an Alberta coal company after 670 million litres of waste water spilled into the Athabasca River.

Chief Ronald Kreutzer filed the statement of claim on behalf of the Fort McMurray First Nation, stating that anyone who lives near, or has used, the Athabasca River, Plante Creek, Apetowun Creek or Peace-Athabasca Delta since the October 2013 spill are a member of the class-action lawsuit.

The lawsuit follows the spill of contaminated water and sediment Oct. 31, 2013, that flowed out of a broken tailing pond at the Obed Mountain Mine near Hinton. The waste flowed through creeks connected to the Athabasca River.

Coal Valley Resources operated the mine as a subsidiary of Sherritt International. Westmoreland Canada Holding, a subsidiary of a U.S. company, obtained a controlling interest in Coal Valley after the spill. The lawsuit names all three companies.

Statements of claim contain allegations not proven in court.

Kreutzer’s lawsuit claims the spilled waste contained dangerous levels of mercury, selenium and lead. Subsequent tests showed elevated levels of toxicity in the river system, in fish and nearby livestock. “The effluent and resulting increased levels of toxins prevented and continue to prevent class members from safely hunting, fishing or harvesting resources from their historical lands and waterways, including drinking water.”

Exposure to the waste material could lead to an increased risk of certain cancers and reproductive disorders, the lawsuit says.

The spill was a result of Coal Valley’s inability to properly construct and inspect the tailing pond prior to the spill and their failure to warn people and protect waterways afterward, Kreutzer claims.

In October, Coal Valley Resources and Sherritt International were criminally charged in connection to the spill. The companies each face six charges under Alberta’s Environmental Protection Act, Public Lands Act and Water Act. The maximum combined fine for all six charges is slightly more than $2 million

In the weeks following the spill, the province advised downstream communities not to draw water from the river and farmers not to let livestock drink from it.

[Refer also to:

2015: AER trying to buy Harper votes? When’s AER going to criminally charge Encana for violating AEPEA and the Water Act by illegally fracturing and diverting fresh water from Rosebud’s drinking water aquifers?

2014: Alberta regulator never inspected berm that burst at Obed mine toxic tailings pond, resulting in largest coal slurry spill in Canada

2013: Alberta Environment needs to stop lying about water contamination: One billion litres of waste water contaminated Athabasca River with mercury levels 9 times more than normal, PAHs 4 times more than allowed


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