The old Defense building which used to be located on County Road 44 has been named in an internal RCMP memorandum as having been a health hazard during the period the police force used it as a training facility. The CBC recently revealed that the RCMP had prepared a report on the hazardous materials contained in the building, including “friable asbestos, building materials containing silica, rodent and insect infestation, unsafe levels of lead in the water, and hazardous moulds.”
These health hazards may have contributed to the deaths of six RCMP officers who either trained or worked at the facility, and all of whom died between the ages of 39 and 57. The police force used the facility, primarily, as a training centre for their Special 1 unit, which undertakes electronic surveillance operations.
The building had a long history of undercover operations, being one of three Federal Readiness Units, designed to house and shelter government officials in case of a nuclear attack. Another Unit was the famous Diefenbunker in Carp. A two-storey building was built on Highway 16 (now County Road 44) across the road from the entrance to the Ferguson Forest Station. Before the building was ready for occupation, a special underground bunker was added to the structure to protect those using the site in the event of a nuclear attack.
The locations of these as Federal Readiness Units were chosen to be close to Ottawa, for ease of access, and had to be south and west of the capital to escape radioactive clouds that would be spread by the prevailing winds which blow from the west.
The Kemptville location was also chosen to be the back-up centre should the Diefenbunker itself be compromised, which meant that Kemptville would then become the government and communications centre for the Canadian Government. Cabinet Ministers and senior government officials would be divided between the Diefenbunker, the Kemptville site and the Carleton Place location, to ensure that government could continue even if two of the three sites were destroyed in an attack.
The facility closed in 2006. The RCMP is preparing letters to be sent out to those who worked in the building to inform them of the potential health concerns.