Today, lawyers for three Harrietsfield residents told the Nova Scotia Supreme Court to preserve the province’s legal duty to enforce cleanup and remediation orders that protect groundwater from contamination.
Ecojustice staff lawyer Kaitlyn Mitchell, along with co-counsel from Dalhousie Legal Aid, represented Marlene Brown, Melissa King, and Jonathan Andrews. Their well water is unsafe to drink because it contains high levels of toxic chemicals such as arsenic, boron and cadmium. The clients are intervenors in the 3075625 Nova Scotia Limited v. Minister of the Environmental appeal, where a company has asked the minister to remove its name from a cleanup order.
“We’re angry and fed up,” said Marlene Brown. “If the company is removed from the order then others listed can do the same and there will be more delays in bringing healthy and safe water to our community.”
The case involves contamination from a now defunct construction and demolition recycling facility located near Harrietsfield. The Minister of the Environment issued an Order requiring cleanup and monitoring of the contamination in 2010, having concluded that the appellant and other past and present operators of the site had violated Nova Scotia’s Environmental Act. The Minister concluded that the appellant and others released contaminants from the site that harmed local groundwater as well as the nearby Shea Lake.
“Our governments have a legal duty to protect the public’s drinking water from contamination,” Mitchell said. “Upholding the Minister’s Order would show Nova Scotians that their government can and must hold polluters responsible for the damage they’ve done.”
Canada has no binding national drinking water standards, which could ensure equal access to safe drinking water for all Canadians. The result is uneven water protection and monitoring that endangers people in rural and First Nations communities. A recent Ecojustice report, Waterproof: Standards, uncovered 105 substances for which Canada had no standard of protection where at least one other comparison country does.