HALIFAX — Residents of Harrietsfield, N.S. are asking Environment Minister Margaret Miller to enforce a clean-up order for a defunct construction and demolition recycling facility that has contaminated their drinking water for more than a decade.
Ecojustice, Canada’s largest environmental law charity, has launched an e-mail campaign in support of the residents, urging Minister Miller to use her legislative powers to enforce a clean-up.
“Most Canadians take for granted that the water in their taps is safe for drinking, cooking and bathing. For many in Harrietsfield, that is not the case,” said Kaitlyn Mitchell, Ecojustice lawyer.
Levels of toxic substances such as boron, arsenic, cadmium, and uranium have been found in local groundwater at levels that exceed what is considered safe in the Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines. The Nova Scotia government has issued several clean-up orders for the contaminated site, which those named have tried persistently (and unsuccessfully) to appeal in court.
While the government committed late last year to install water filtration systems in the homes of affected residents, those responsible for the site have not complied with the clean-up orders. Under Nova Scotia law, the Minister has the power to enforce these orders, or otherwise take clean-up efforts into her own hands and send polluters the bill.
All the while, many residents of Harrietsfield are afraid to drink the water in their homes.
“We just watch our plumbing deteriorate. I have no peace in my home anymore. My home is a house,” said Harrietsfield resident Marlene Brown.
Brown is one of many residents who are forced to get their drinking water outside of their homes – having a water supply means filling up at the taps of a local church.
“None of us can afford to move. It’s a low income community, so basically we’re stuck. If they can’t even force a company to reinstate a water monitoring program, it’s going to be years before they clean up the contamination on that site,” Brown said. “We’re surrounded by water and we can’t drink. We might as well be in the ocean.”
The Harrietsfield residents, along with Ecojustice and East Coast Environmental Law Association, urge Minister Miller to take action now to defend for their right to clean, safe drinking water.
“Those who caused the pollution should be the ones to clean up of this site,” Mitchell said. “If those responsible fail to comply with legally–binding Ministerial Orders, Minister Miller must step in and protect residents and their local environment.”