05/29/2012 12:18 EDT | Updated 07/29/2012 05:12 EDT

Appeal in Cape Breton tar ponds lawsuit disappointing, says lawyer

HALIFAX - An appeal in a class-action lawsuit over Cape Breton's notorious tar ponds is disappointing but not surprising after some eight years of legal wrangling, a Halifax lawyer said Tuesday.

Ray Wagner, who represents the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said the former and current residents of Sydney remain dedicated to their battle against the federal and provincial governments.

"They have an immense amount of resolve," Wagner said in an interview.

"They are committed to this project and the follow-through to the end, whenever that end would be."

Plaintiffs are seeking compensation for property damage and exposure to industrial toxins from decades of contaminants spewed from the former Sydney Steel Corp. plant, as well as funds to establish a medical monitoring program.

Some are also suing to have their properties cleaned up.

They include people who live or have lived in neighbourhoods near the steel plant, the former coke ovens operation and the tar ponds — an estuary full of contaminated runoff and sludge from the ovens.

Wagner said the suit could include up to 20,000 people.

Earlier this month, the federal and provincial governments filed notices of appeal of a Nova Scotia Supreme Court decision certifying the lawsuit as a class action.

"Every party has the right to appeal a decision and we fully expected that they would seriously consider doing so," said Wagner.

Spokesmen for the provincial and federal governments confirmed they were appealing the certification, but declined to comment further.

Notices filed by both governments in the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal argue the Supreme Court judge who certified the class action made errors in facts and law.

Wagner said an Appeal Court judge has set Nov. 5 as a date to hear the application for leave to appeal.

It will be up to a judge at that time to determine whether a full appeal will be held. If so, Wagner said that will occur next March.