Cambridge Contamination by “Echo Weekly” (November 12-18th 2009)

By  | November 15, 2009 | 7 Comments | Filed under: About Trichloroethylene (TCE)

By Scot Ferguson

Cambridge is being built on a foundation of toxic sludge. We are
paying the price for decades of manufacturing prosperity, and
that prosperity could cost citizens the health of future
Earlier this year I had concerns about a vacant property in the
area I’d recently moved to. The property in question made the
news two years ago when it was revealed that my new residence
was lying on contaminated ground. At the time, neither the
property owner nor the City of Cambridge was willing to pay the
price for cleanup, and nothing has been done to date. A report
released last year stated that “there wasn’t any concern as the
contamination wasn’t moving”. The head in the sand syndrome
disturbed me, but not as much as what I was about to discover.
While investigating that particular site, I found evidence of
countless others. For years, many factories were in the habit of
dumping waste chemicals anywhere and everywhere that was
convenient with no forethought for the environment. Every former
industrial site is suspect. The problem typically remains a secret
until health problems arise, usually years later after the damage
has been done.
I contacted the City of Cambridge and requested a list of all
contaminated property within city limits. Last week, Linda Fegan,
Director of Corporate Communications and Marketing for the City
of Cambridge, sent me the following in regards to my request:
“We don’t have a list. I tried to put that as clearly as I could – we
don’t collect data in that way. When a building permit or request
for other work on a privately owned property comes in, it would
be contained in the application and the appropriate government
guidelines around remediation are followed. This information is
filled individually with the property. There is no comprehensive
list available.”
Apparently, the environmental engineers that the city

employees are incapable of making a list. They can’t fix what they
don’t know about.
One well–documented case came into the spotlight during
the recent All Candidates Debate during the election. There is a
large, open area along Bishop Street, near the former Northstar
Aerospace facility, where the ground is contaminated by
Trichloroethylene (TCE) and Chromium 6. The contamination
came to light in 2005, and forced the evacuation of a number of
area residents. Northstar is the subject of three separate lawsuits
in the matter.
Chromium 6 is the same chemical that was the reason for the
lawsuit in the movie Erin Brockovich. Vitez has been in touch with
Brockovich about the situation in Cambridge, and they have had
regular correspondence over it.
TCE is used commercially as industrial degreasers, spot
removers, and in dry cleaning. Exposure typically occurs via
drinking contaminated water. Animal research and human
population studies suggest that TCE exposure may also be
associated with other health effects, such as reproductive and
developmental problems, impaired neurological function, and
auto–immune disease.
One of the suits is for $213 million, filed by Denis and
Debbie Vitez. The Vitez suit claims that Chromium 6 and TCE are
responsible for their chronic breathing problems, Parkinson’s
Syndrome and neurological damages which have escalated over
the past five years. The suit claims that the companies “were
aware that toxic levels of the human carcinogens TCE and
Chromium were seeping into the groundwater in the vicinity of
their Bishop Street plants.”
Debbie Vitez has documented the health issues of over 60
residents who lived in the immediate vicinity of Northstar, with
some of the afflictions resulting in the deaths of people living
near the plant.
The Waterloo Region District School Board recently voted unanimously in favour of plans to tear down Ryerson School,
which sits within the affected area, and build a bigger one. One of
the reasons for tearing down the school is the declining
enrolment in the area.
The board plans not only to build a new school, they are also
going to bus students in from other areas of the city. They are
going to tear down a school that sits on contaminated land
because of declining enrolment, build a bigger school on the
same land, bus students in, and “continue to monitor the
At a recent public meeting parents voiced their concerns and
asked trustees not to send their children to Ryerson. Several
walked out of the meeting. I spoke with one of those parents, who
requested anonymity. “Their solution is to build a school without
a basement.” she told me. “Their logic is it’s further away from the
contamination that way.
“What are they going to say when the kids get sick 10, 20
years from now. Are they going to be sorry again?”
And, of course, if they dig up the ground, it’s going to stir up
the contaminants again, something Vitez witnessed when one of
her neighbours did some renovations.
No one, including Northstar, is denying the contamination is
there. The problem, Vitez says, is getting the various levels of
government to co–operate and do something.
Vitez was at the recent All Candidates Debate in Preston. She
confronted incumbent Conservative Gary Goodyear and accused
him of gross negligence for ignoring the Northstar situation.
Countless e–mails have gone unanswered, Goodyear phoned her
once, and the debate was the first time she has seen him.
Goodyear passed the buck by claiming “it’s a provincial
Scott Cosman said the Green party would “support an
investigation that identifies cause and assigns accountability”
Liberal Gord Zeilstra stated “To say ‘this is not a federal
issue’ is the wrong answer.
The tainted water is flowing into Lake Erie.
It’s everyone’s responsibility.”
Vitez has been in contact with every level of government,
none of who will claim any responsibility.
There were attempts by Northstar to keep the matter quiet. A
letter from the company, dated August 2005, informed residents
of the situation, “In a discreet manner to protect the reputation of
the community.”
The letter goes on to state “If this becomes a hot item for the
press, it is possible members of the media will visit the
neighbourhood and question residents, looking for their reaction.
If you do not wish to speak to the media, a simple ‘no comment’
will usually suffice. Remember – this is your neighbourhood! We
are certain you wish to maintain and protect its integrity as much
as we do. If everyone maintains a positive outlook, the effect
upon the media will be likewise.”
“It’s pretty hard to maintain a positive outlook when you see
your loved ones and neighbours get sicker by the day. They
wanted us to keep quiet.” Vitez has no intention of “being quiet.”
She has accumulated thousands of pages of documentation and
has every intention of making them public.
The election has brought the Northstar contamination back to
the public eye, but Vitez fears that now that the election is over
everyone will ignore it. Again.
To counter that, at Gord Zeilstra’s suggestion, she is forming
a group to identify and classify the contaminated areas in the
city. “If the city doesn’t have a list we’ll give them one,” she tells
me. “and it’s going to big. The story is far from over”
Like the real Erin Brockovich, Vitez realizes that her legal
battles may take years, but she’s prepared. When it’s all said and
done, maybe Julia Roberts will play her in the sequel. If you are
interested in assisting Vitez you can contact her at




Link to Story




7 Responses to Cambridge Contamination by “Echo Weekly” (November 12-18th 2009)

    Bev McDowell November 7, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Worth bringing forward again. From the Advocate archives 1 year ago November 2009.

    Scot Ferguson November 7, 2010 at 6:25 pm


    Mr. Dumfries November 7, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    Scot is toxic sludge that walks around town… get a hair cut, take a bath, shave
    you know get your sh*& together…. ps the Cambridge Citizen sucks

    testiccles.mcintyre November 8, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    I have seen the likes of this Toxic Sludge, here and in Kitchener area…thoroughly DISGUSTING!!!! Yes, we do need to rid our Region of these drunken, drug infected losers that plague the GOOD PEOPLE!!!!! And what is REALLY being done about this business of dangerous chemicals in all goods that we humans consume and conceive, ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? Mr. Dumfries is corrrect, lets clean up this mess !!!!!!!

    Mr. Dumfries November 8, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    thanks for the correction Deb 🙂

  6. Scot Ferguson November 8, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    Subject: Echo contamination article
    Date: Monday, November 8, 2010, 4:16 PM

    Debbie, you have an article of mine published at your site that I am the
    legal copyright owner of.

    I am formally requesting that you remove this article by midnight tonight
    or I will be filing papers in small claims court tomorrow.


    Subject: Re: Echo contamination article
    Date: Monday, November 8, 2010, 4:17 PM

    See you in court


    Subject: Re: Echo contamination article
    Date: Monday, November 8, 2010, 4:32 PM

    Cool, I’ve been laying aff the advocate but i can take the gloves off,
    your cartoonists attempts to impersonate me by posting under my name are
    feeble, childish but typical.
    I look forward to seeing you in court, you can give me some of your
    Northstar money!


    Subject: Re: Echo contamination article
    Date: Monday, November 8, 2010, 4:35 PM

    Sending this too my lawyer, one more and you will be charged with harassment!!!

    Stay away from me!!


    Subject: Re: Echo contamination article
    Date: Monday, November 8, 2010, 7:20 PM

    Then pull my article. Send it to your lawyer, I hope he charges youbig
    bucks.lawyers don’t scare me in the least, bring it on!! Of course, if you
    don’t want to pull the article you can pay me to run it.

  7. Debbie Duff Vitez November 8, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    The above is a rant from Scot Ferguson.
    The article he is refering too, was published here a year ago.

    It was my story he told pertaining to the Bishop Street Community…

    I gave Scot Ferguson credit for writing the story…I gave Echo full credit, as they paid Scot for the story.
    The Story belongs to Echo not Scot Ferguson.

    The election is over and this is what I knew Scot would do.. Not the first time he has harassed me and probably won’t be the last.

    I gave Jim Hillis until Christmas to cut himself loose from Scot.. I take that back.
    Jim Hillis has too much class to continue with this kind of nonsense.
    I now give you until Nov 30th Jim..

    Once Scot goes off the rails like this, it’s only going to get worse.. He will leave you no choice…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *