Marystown lobby group wants shipyard report released

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Barb Sweet
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The Marystown Shipyard Families Alliance is fed up with delays in releasing a report on cancers among shipyard workers.

The report was commissioned in fall 2009 by the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission (WHSCC), said Bernadine Bennett, whose father died from lung cancer she suspects may have been caused by toxic exposure at the shipyard decades ago.

She said the alliance - a lobby group for sick former workers and surviving families - has been told too many times the report is imminent.

"To be told the report is imminent is what we have been told since 2009," Bennett said.

"That's frustrating. We feel for whatever reason, to us this seems like it's a stall tactic. It's delaying recognizing what happened at that yard and recognizing the exposure."

A Service NL spokesman said the report will be out in the next couple of weeks and will be posted online.

Since 2006, the alliance has counted 27 employees who have been diagnosed with or died from cancer, but it suspects there are many more cases, as that number is only based on anecdotal information and the group's watch on obituaries.

Bennett said the latency period for exposure to carcinogens is 40 years, and she believes some of the cancers in recent times are the result of exposure to high doses of chemicals at the shipyard many years ago.

She said the men who worked at the shipyard decades ago were exposed to multiple chemicals in confined spaces without protective equipment.

The WHSCC's occupational disease advisory panel commissioned a Montreal research institute to examine whether or not there are cancers that occur in shipyard workers around the world at a higher rate than among the general population.

Taking time

Bennett said it's a taxpayer-paid-for document that's overdue.

"It's not rocket science. You don't need two months to figure out how you are going to release a report," she said of the WHSCC.

Bennett said the alliance - which has a medical adviser - has provided plenty of research to back up its claims and wanted to be involved in decision-making. She said the directive given the Montreal firm involves old science.

"We were talking about multi-chemical exposure. If this (Montreal firm) had been given that directive we would have had no problem in waiting to see what the outcome was," Bennett said.

She said the alliance was first told the report would be done within 18 months. That changed to two years, she said. Then it was supposed to be released in December 2011.

"If the compensation board or government thinks delaying anything further is going to change the situation in Marystown, it's not," Bennett said.

"It is what it is and denying the facts does not change the facts. That's just going to get worse ... What is in that report that's taking so long to get it in our hands? And whatever it is, let's just figure it out before the situation in Marystown gets more desperate."

The Brian Tobin administration privatized the shipyard in the late 1990s, but it inked a deal to cover the cost of all environmental issues that existed up to the time of the sale.

In 2002, Peter Kiewit and Sons bought it. As part of that deal, the government agreed to continue covering those environmental liabilities, and lead paint was removed in 2009.

In 2010, the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development said the environmental indemnity agreement (EIA) is limited to "physical assets" at the shipyard.

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Organizations: WHSCC, Marystown Shipyard Families Alliance, Workplace Health Safety and Compensation Commission Service NL Peter Kiewit and Sons Department of Innovation Rural Development

Geographic location: Marystown, Montreal

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  • Suzanne Kilfoy
    February 18, 2012 - 23:09

    The last time I looked imminent meant forthcoming or fast approaching, certainly not two years! It's curious how WHSCC handle research an investigation when it comes to an issue that they don't want to admit. Ignore it and hope it will go away or sidestep it and make excuses. The families want answers and are tired of waiting. If the people of Newfoundland and Labrador can initiate a legal action against the province for the endangerment of the motoring public vs. the moose then I'm sure the Marystown Shipyard Families Alliance can find a legal representative to guide them through a class action suite against the Province and WHSCC on an issue as important as this!

  • SAMMYH
    February 18, 2012 - 10:45

    cant believe that crowd on the Burin are whining again.for Gods sake go somewhere and get a job and not be so critical day in and day out.you have cried wolf far too often already.your credibility is shot !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Clayton Haas
      February 19, 2012 - 21:57

      Well Sammyh I guess your one of these ignorant people who think they are invincible. You would be ok with your father dying from eating smoke and dust in a double bottom of a ship that was painted with lead paint and who knows what other grease and oil being burnt as your welding on it and not want your family compensated...I am betting you and your old man only had to worry about their suit being pressed and their shoes shined before they went to work and screwed some poor hard working Newfoundlander out of his hard earned money. Obviously your not a construction worker who still face daily hardships trying to stay healthy and alive in the workplace while the safety idiots only worry about ear plugs and safety glasses......places like the Shipyard in Marystown and the Fishery around this Province is what made them filthy St.John's Merchants so filty rich and to read your rubbish on here is disgusting....Notice I didn't hide behind a false name like you did sammyh....