HARRIETSFIELD, N.S. — The Nova Scotia Supreme Court has upheld a cleanup order that will force polluters to clean up contamination that has left families in Harrietsfield unable to safely drink the water out of their own taps.
“The Court’s decision is reassuring news for my clients, but the real work begins now,” said Ecojustice lawyer Kaitlyn Mitchell, who represented three Harrietsfield residents before the Court. “We urge the Nova Scotia government and those who caused the pollution to take swift, immediate action to remedy the situation in Harrietsfield and ensure that local residents have access to safe drinking water in their own homes.”
The three Harrietsfield residents intervened in a case that challenged a contaminated site clean-up order issued by the Minister of the Environment. The company that last operated the construction and demolition recycling facility argued that it had not caused the contamination and should therefore not be liable for clean-up costs — a position the Court has soundly rejected.
The Court’s decision is the latest development in the fight by Marlene Brown, Melissa King and Jonathan Andrews, along with other Harrietsfield community members, to clean-up industrial contamination that left their well water unsafe for human consumption. Several tests show that their well water contains toxic chemicals like arsenic, lead, and cadmium — all at levels that exceed what is considered safe in the Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines.
“We shouldn’t have to go to court to have access to safe drinking water in our community, or in any community. Safe drinking water is a basic human right and should be protected as such,” said Brown — who, along with others fill up jugs at the local church, or the homes of friends and relatives when they need water. “The Court’s decision reinforces the need for government and industry to act now so that we can finally drink what comes out of our taps.”
Years of industrial contamination by a number of operators left the water at King and Andrews’ home so laden with toxic chemicals that they were afraid to bathe their two-year old son at home. With no remedy likely in the near future, they recently made the difficult decision to declare bankruptcy and leave their home.
“I’m hopeful that now we’ll finally see some action from the government and these polluters,” King said. “I wouldn’t wish what my family and I had to go through on anyone. No one should have to live like that.”