A report commissioned by the RCMP on the potential hazards associated with its former training facility in Kemptville, Ont., south of Ottawa, has concluded the health risks ranged from none to low.
However, BluMetric Environmental, the Ottawa-based consultant firm that produced the report, says it lacked data on the levels of exposure to toxic materials faced by RCMP employees at the time.
“As such, it is not possible to decisively confirm with complete certainty whether illnesses and injuries could potentially be linked to past exposures and conditions at this site,” says the report obtained by Radio-Canada.
The RCMP launched a review of the former site after a Radio-Canada/CBC investigation published almost three years ago, which revealed the presence of numerous contaminants at the facility used by the RCMP from 1988 until 2006, when it was closed and later demolished.
The story also identified at least six RCMP members who had trained at the facility and who died prematurely of cancer or neurological conditions.
The former building was used mainly to train members of the RCMP’s “Special I” unit.
The BluMetric report stated training was “more than classroom training,” and included covert training operations.
“Training activities included: drilling holes in walls to facilitate microphone, camera, and alarm installations; entering ceiling spaces and cavities to route cables through walls,” according to the report.
The report acknowledges potential exposure to asbestos, lead and/or crystalline silica from “drilling and cutting into these building materials.”
BluMetric reviewed multiple reports from 1988 to 2009, including reports on the presence of contaminants on the former site such as asbestos and silica in building materials, lead in water and paint, and mould and fungal spores in the building.
According to the report, exposure to different contaminants was low or non-existent.
BluMetric did say it had to “estimate” past exposures because of a lack of data on the real level of exposure to these contaminants by the RCMP employees at the time.
To do so, BluMetric said it used scientific studies done on similar activities.
Anger and deception
An RCMP officer, who CBC has agreed to call Mike because of the sensitive nature of his work, said he felt “some anger and a lot of disappointment” in the wake of the report.
Mike, who spent many weeks in Kemptville and who suffers from serious health issues, says the report underestimates the level of harmful exposures.
“We were directly exposed to friable asbestos in the ceilings. Part of our training scenario techniques taught us to blow on the asbestos dust to cover our hand prints,” he said.
“We did drilling in cement blocks in the foundation, which contained silica, and these were large holes and we had no protective equipment, no breathing apparatus, nothing. There is some context missing in the report,” he said.
In December 2021, the RCMP announced the consultant had produced a report, but revisions were made and the final report was submitted to the RCMP on Nov. 4, 2022.
The RCMP sent the report to the members who attended the Kemptville training facility and encouraged any employee with a concern about their health to seek the advice of their doctor.