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April 18, 2010

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Council drops challenge in toxic dust case

The families of children with birth defects alleged to have been caused by poisonous dust released during the clean-up of a former steelworks have won their fight for compensation.

Between 1983 and August 1997, 19 children in the Corby area were born with physical deformities, such as shortened or missing arms, legs and fingers, said to be the result of their mothers’ ingestion or inhalation of harmful substances generated by reclamation works at the former British Steel plant in the town.

In July last year, the High Court found that between 1983 and August 1997, Corby Borough Council was “extensively negligent in its control and management” of the sites it acquired from British Steel. The Court went on to rule that “negligence led to the extensive dispersal of contaminated mud and dust over public areas of Corby and into and over private homes, with the result that the contaminants could realistically have caused the types of birth defects of which complaint has been made by the claimants”.

The Council originally challenged the decision but has now reached an out-of-court financial settlement with the families of the young people who suffered personal injury, without accepting liability. The financial terms of the settlement are confidential and, in the case of the younger children involved, will require approval by the Court.

After reaching the agreement on 16 April, the Council’s chief executive, Chris Mallender, said: “The Council recognises that it made mistakes in its clean-up of the former British Steel site years ago and extends its deepest sympathy to the children and their families.

“Although I accept that money cannot properly compensate these young people for their disabilities and for all that they have suffered to date and their problems in the future, the Council sincerely hopes that this apology, coupled with the agreement, will mean that they can now put their legal battle behind them and proceed with their lives with a greater degree of financial certainty.”
Solicitor for the Corby families Des Collins said: “My clients live with the daily reminder of the sub-standard clean-up of the former British Steel plant in Corby. Of course, no financial sum can properly compensate for their lifelong deformities and disabilities.
However, they are relieved that their long battle is now over.”

Sarah Pearson, mother of Lewis Waterfield, who was born with significant deformities affecting both hands, added: “We are just so relieved our fight is finally at an end. On behalf of all the Corby children and their families, I would like to thank all those who have supported us during our long campaign. We would also like to give credit to the Council for including three other children in this agreement, despite the Court’s ruling last year.”

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