Ecojustice Case – Healthy communities Case Status: In Progress

Protecting drinking water in Harrietsfield, Nova Scotia

Ecojustice lawyer Kaitlyn MitchellKaitlyn MitchellEcojustice Alumni
Marlene Brown stands with water signMarlene BrownClient
“I never stop thinking or stressing about water. It’s always on my mind," said resident Angela ZwickerAngel ZwickerClient
Melissa King and her son Emmett stand in front of their abandoned homeMelissa KingClient
We need safer drinking water banner in Harrietsfield
Photo by Rebecca Hussman

Ecojustice lawyers represented three residents of Harrietsfield, Nova Scotia, in their fight to protect their drinking water from contamination. In several documented cases, residents of Harrietsfield learned that toxic substances such as boron, arsenic, cadmium, and uranium had been found in local groundwater at levels that exceed what is considered safe in the Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines. As a result of this contamination, our clients, Marlene Brown, Melissa King and Jonathan Andrews, were forced to rely on filling up jugs at their local church and at the homes of friends and relatives for their drinking water and to travel to the homes of family and friends to bathe and do laundry.

One numbered company that operated a demolition facility on the site asked the Nova Scotia Supreme Court to be removed from the clean-up order. Marlene, Melissa and Jonathan intervened in this case because they were worried that if the company won the appeal and had its name removed from the order, the remaining companies may not complete the work required to clean up their water.

The Nova Scotia Supreme Court confirmed that polluters must clean up the contaminated site in Harrietsfield, N.S., that has left many residents without access to clean, safe drinking water of an acceptable quality for nearly a decade.

Working with lawyers at East Coast Environmental Law, Ecojustice successfully represented community members Angela Zwicker, Marlene Brown and Melissa King in the two appeal proceedings launched by some of the companies ordered to clean up the contaminated site. (Nova Scotia Ltd v. Minister of the Environment, 2015 NSSC 137 and Nova Scotia Ltd. v. Minister of the Environment v. Brown et al., 2017 NSSC 67.)

Since then, the government committed to providing drinking water treatment systems for some impacted homes in Harrietsfield.

Why did Ecojustice get involved?

At the most basic level, Ecojustice got involved in this case because every Canadian should have access to clean water. We also believe that companies that pollute must pay to clean up the mess.

Finally, we believe that certain natural resources – in this case, the groundwater that residents rely on for drinking – belong to everyone and that elected officials are responsible for protecting and maintaining these resources.  Upholding the government’s authority to issue and enforce the clean-up order in this case is consistent with the government’s duty to manage these natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations.  It is also consistent with protecting the intervenors’ right to water.

What does this victory mean?

Our number one objective was to support our clients in their fight for clean, safe water.  We should all be able to drink the water that flows through the taps in our homes without fear for our health and safety.  While it is an important step that the government will be installing water impact treatment systems for some impacted homes, we have consistently pushed for the site to be remediated as well.

Build the case for a better earth

Thanks to the support of people like you, Ecojustice goes to court to protect what we value most — the air, land and water that sustains all life. Make your gift today and support bold litigation for a brighter environmental future.

Right to a Healthy Environment

December 15,2014

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