News / Halifax

Last resort: Halifax-area resident first Nova Scotian prosecuting companies for water contamination

Marlene Brown says people have moved away from Harrietsfield in light of the ongoing contamination issue.

Marlene Brown poses for a portrait outside the Halifax Central Library on Wednesday. She says her neighbours have left the Harrietsfield area as a result of contaminated water.

Patrick Fulgencio-For Metro

Marlene Brown poses for a portrait outside the Halifax Central Library on Wednesday. She says her neighbours have left the Harrietsfield area as a result of contaminated water.

Marlene Brown doesn’t know what’s coming out of her tap, but she knows it isn’t good.

The Harrietsfield resident has been fighting to have clean water for more than a decade. The now-closed nearby construction debris recycling facility, RDM Recycling, has been leaking dangerous contaminants like uranium and cadmium into the groundwater, seeping into Brown’s and other people’s wells.

Around her, Brown said people are moving away because there isn’t an end in sight.

“A lot of my neighbours are gone now,” said Brown.

In addition to the contamination, Brown said the wells haven’t been tested since Water Monitoring Program stopped looking at the water of 18 Harrietsfield homes in December 2015. For over a year, Brown hasn’t known the extent of what’s contaminating her water.

Despite an order from the province in 2010, a cleanup still hasn’t happened.

Brown walked in to Halifax provincial court on Wednesday morning with East Coast Environmental Law (ECELAW) members, and lawyer Jamie Simpson to lay charges against the companies she says are polluting her water, in what she called a last resort since government hasn’t taken action.

This is the first time private prosecution has been used in Nova Scotia to enforce environmental laws.

On Wednesday, Simpson, Brown and Lisa Mitchell of ECELAW were working to file the charges, but because this is first time this has been done in the province, they needed some additional documents to follow through with the private prosecution.

Brown said that some of her neighbours are facing tumours, cancers, and liver and kidney disease.

It’s even affecting pets, said Brown. Brown’s neighbour had one dog die of liver cancer, and another dog has a tumour. The vet has said there’s nothing they can do, Brown recalled.

Simpson, Brown’s lawyer, said he’s especially concerned that about the lack of monitoring.

“We don't know the exact extent of what's happening right now with the contamination," he said.

After the charges are filed, Simpson said the province can stay the charges, take over prosecution, or they could let them continue with the charges.

"One way or another, ultimately we want to see the contamination addressed and the site cleaned up,” said Simpson.

The group said the cleanup is estimated to cost $10 million.

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