Who pays when your well is sucked dry and your home is contaminated?

Who pays when your well is sucked dry and your home is contaminated? by Tracy Glynn, June 20, 2012
Wilf Pearson was a jovial but straight-shooting retired truck driver who painted Christmas murals on downtown business windows in the small city of Port Colborne, ON, on Lake Erie. He didn’t live, though, to see the day that the Supreme Court of Canada denied his community a hearing. Pearson, like many others who lived on Rodney Street in the shadow of a nickel refinery, felt the city’s largest employer, the refinery, was responsible for contamination and sickness in his working-class neighbourhood and surrounding farmlands. Pearson, the original claimant on a historic class action lawsuit filed over 10 years ago, died in March of this year at the age of 80 years old. Pearson and the other claimants on the suit made the difficult decision of going after Inco for only the devaluation of their properties and not a list of other impacts they connected to the refinery (such as sickness) because of legal advice on how the courts work. In their class action suit, Port Colborne residents claimed that their property values were diminished by the nickel emitted from Inco’s refinery over a 66-year period prior to 1985. On July 6, 2010, Ontario Supreme Court Justice J.R. Henderson sided with the residents and awarded $36 million to 7,000 Port Colborne households including Pearson’s in what was Canada’s largest environmental class action lawsuit award. Households in the Rodney Street area, the location of the refinery, were each awarded $23,000. In their appeal, Vale, formerly Inco, questioned whether the trial judge had erred on different accounts, including whether the nickel discharge by Inco onto the property of the claimants had actually constituted an actionable nuisance. In April, the Supreme Court of Canada sided with Vale and ruled that the claimants had failed to establish Vale’s liability. … Diana Wiggins, a mother who pulled her son out of a Port Colborne elementary school in 2001 because she suspected that it was making her son sick, says she is not surprised by the court ruling given that three of the judges on the case had recently been appointed by the Harper government. “Harper won’t be happy until this country has third world standards,”

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