The first citizen-led prosecution under Nova Scotia’s Environment Act will proceed in Provincial Court June 13.
Judge Gregory Lenihan has ruled there are sufficient grounds to support charges brought by Harrietsfield resident Marlene Brown against two numbered companies and one individual who ran a construction salvage yard known as RDM Recycling since 2002. Brown has been working with EcoJustice and East Coast Environmental Law for seven years to try and find a solution for eight neighbouring residents whose well water has been tested and shows contamination from arsenic, lead, and other substances found in groundwater leaching from the junkyard site.
Brown’s lawyer Jamie Simpson called Brown and two staff with the provincial Environment Department to give testimony before the Judge during an in camera hearing known as a “pre-Enquete.” The goal was to determine if there is sufficient evidence to merit a trial.
The charges under the provincial Environment Act include releasing substances causing an adverse effect into the environment and failing to comply with Ministerial Orders, offences under sections 67 and 132 of Nova Scotia’s Environment Act.
If convicted of releasing harmful substances, the maximum fine is $1 million.
Charged are #3012334 NS Limited, the original operator of the salvage yard known as RDM Recycling, and its former president, Roy Brown. Also charged is the site’s subsequent operator, #3076525 NS Limited, a business owned by the same Municipal Group of companies that includes Dexter Construction and Royal Environmental Inc.
The RDM construction dump site was closed by HRM in 2013 after years of citizen complaints. Appeals continued through the courts from the two previous operators of the business after they were ordered by two separate Environment Ministers to assess the damage and come up with a plan to mitigate the contamination.
The first Order was issued by the Dept of Environment in 2010 but it failed to follow up.
A second Order was issued in February 2016 by Environment Minister Margaret Miller to the two numbered companies named above. The cleanup cost was estimated at over $10 million.
The province, through the Attorney General, is free to take over prosecuting the companies now that the companies have exhausted all legal avenues of appeal. So far it hasn’t done so, although a representative of the Justice Department sat in on the private prosecution hearing before Judge Lenihan.
Meanwhile, Harrietsfield residents — up to 40 of whom have experienced water issues over the past 10 years — were told by Halifax Atlantic Liberal candidate Brendan Maguire a fix is on the way from the province in co-operation with HRM. Maguire made the announcement on Facebook during the second week of the provincial election campaign. The following day an official with the City said no formal consultation with the Province had occurred to come up with a solution.