Industry Health concerns extend beyond shipyard workers,
The Marystown Shipyard Families Alliance believes exposure
to toxins and chemicals extends beyond just those who have worked at the
"A community group exploring the effects of exposure to
toxins and chemicals on employees at the Marystown shipyard believes workers
aren't the only ones who should be concerned. . . . Earlier this year, the
Marystown Shipyard Families Alliance brought 39 claims for occupational disease
before the Workplace Health Safety and Compensation Commission (WHSCC) for
review. Since holding an intake clinic in June, Bennett said, the group is
working on at least 50 more cases. . . . few are aware the provincial
government, which had owned the facility, hired environmental consulting firm
Jacques Whitford to carry out a four-year assessment and cleanup of the
shipyard area, as agreed when the province sold the operation . . . we think
that people in that area are still at risk, have been and are showing the
effects of it."
Industry Health concerns extend beyond shipyard workers,
PAUL HERRIDGE Transcontinental
A community group exploring the effects of
exposure to toxins and chemicals on employees at the Marystown shipyard
believes workers aren't the only ones who should be concerned.
Bernadine Bennett, a co-chairwoman of the Marystown Shipyard Families Alliance
and other members of the group, addressed the matter during last week's regular
town council meeting.
Bennett indicated the alliance, formed last year
in an attempt to find some answers for frustrated shipyard workers and their
families, fear those who live near the yard have also been impacted by exposure
to various substances through the air and other means.
she said the group fears the health of current workers and nearby residents may
be at risk.
Earlier this year, the Marystown Shipyard Families Alliance brought 39
claims for occupational disease before the Workplace Health Safety and
Compensation Commission (WHSCC) for review.
Since holding an intake
clinic in June, Bennett said, the group is working on at least 50 more cases.
She acknowledged new instances are brought to their attention regularly.
With the help of Dr. Noel Kerin, who operates Kerin Occupational Health
Consulting in Toronto, Bennnett said the group claims to be able to link the
majority of the diseases to toxins at the Marystown shipyard.
alliance had hoped to work with Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), which represents
workers at the facility, but after reaching an agreement on how to proceed in
February, things fell through a week later.
Bennett acknowledged the
union has a place in the proceedings, and indicated her group hopes some
relationship can be forged.
"How the CAW chooses to represent their
paid members is completely the decision of the union and its membership," she
"When the effects of an industry, such as a shipyard, spills out
into the surrounding community and causes death and environmental damage, it is
no longer a trade union issue, but a community issue. We are committed to
properly identifying these problems and, if possible, rectifying them."
Problems in wider area
Bennett said it became evident the problems weren't isolated to the facility
alone shortly after the alliance began delving into the diseases linked to
The group expanded its area of research, initially limited to
Queen Street in the community, to include a broader area surrounding the
She said few are aware the provincial government, which had
owned the facility, hired environmental consulting firm Jacques Whitford to
carry out a four-year assessment and cleanup of the shipyard area, as agreed
when the province sold the operation to Freide Goldman International in
Bennett indicated the alliance was granted access to the
assessment and was allowed to jot notes when Burin-Placentia West MHA Clyde
Jackman brought the document to Marystown.
Bennett said the study
revealed a cleanup had been started, but for reasons that were unclear, it was
stopped in April 2002 before it was finished
While much of the
document's jargon was hard for someone without a scientific background to
understand, Bennett said it was obvious the company had "very, very serious"
concerns with the shipyard, which was sold to Peter Kiewit and Sons the same
group has also had difficulty finding information on whether a buffer zone - an
area where residents would not be permitted to live - was established around
"We're assuming it exists. We don't know what the radius
is ... but we think that people in that area are still at risk, have been and
are showing the effects of it."
Laura Cheeseman, an area resident,
pointed out the topic was of particular interest to her family.
front door is overlooking the shipyard, where all these stacks are coming up,
and there's nobody, only us, would have lived there," she said.
should have really moved us away because the clanging and the noise and the
sandblasting and whatever was there. We lived with it for 40 years. I mean it's
unreal. I don't know why we were left there on top of that.
time, nobody suggested anything, nobody said anything so we didn't know any
different, I guess."
Marystown council agreed to another meeting in a month's time, giving
councillors a chance to sift through information provided by the group. Coun.
Dave Brenton asked the alliance to come back with a suggestion as to what role
the town should play.
"There's several issues here; one of them, of
course, is protection of the worker, who is a union member. And now, from your
presentation, the Town of Marystown, the town itself, has a big mess down over
the hill there - something like Argentia had, and they're all getting
assessments and cleanups and millions of dollars," Brenton said.
Bennett suggested for a company such as Jacques Whitford to spend four years
studying Marystown was significant, and said the fact the cleanup had been
"The only thing that we can think is they need to be
brought back in there and finish what they started,"she said.
noted the Jacques Whitford report suggested there are unresolved environmental
issues with the yard's synchrolift.
"Kiewit is not ultimately
responsible for the cleanup, but I don't know. Are they responsible for what
happens down there now, in terms of knowing that it is contaminated and
continuing to work?"
Coun. Phonse Ward asked if the cleanup was
stopped because they weren't finding anything, or because they were unearthing
Bennett explained the shutdown occurred at a hectic time
when a lot happened in a short timespan.
She noted the University of
Toronto had just completed a study, commissioned by the provincial government,
investigating the incidence of cancer in workers at the shipyard. Meanwhile,
the facility was sold to Peter Kiewit, and the White Rose project was just
coming on stream.
"Realistically, do large companies like Maersk,
Shell and Husky, and whoever else was involved in the White Rose project, were
they going to be as anxious to come into Marystown when you got families crying
occupational disease, death and environmental contamination?" Bennett asked
"Was that the reason it was shutdown? I mean it certainly wasn't because
they weren't finding anything down there."
Mayor Sam Synard
acknowledged the matter is serious. "It's a community issue. I agree with you,"