Nova Scotia takes over prosecution of Harrietsfield pollution case

Discolouration is pictured on the walls and faucet of Marlene Brown's bathtub. She says the erosion shows the impact of high levels of contaminants in her drinking water. Marieke Walsh / Global News

Global News has learned that the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service (PPS) plans to take over the prosecution of the Harrietsfield pollution case.

That means the private prosecution of two companies accused of contaminating drinking water in the area will now be handled by the province.

Harrietsfield resident Marlene Brown was laying the charges under Nova Scotia’s Environment Act. It was the first time in the province’s history that a private prosecution was going to proceed.

READ MORE: Harrietsfield resident to file ‘private prosecution’ against companies for polluting drinking water

According to Jamie Simpson — one of the lawyers who was going to represent Brown in her private prosecution — the province announced their decision to take over the case in court on Tuesday.

“So far, they’ve just been there as an observer but today, they indicated they will be intervening,” Simpson told Global News.”They didn’t indicate whether or not they would stay or withdraw any of the charges, but we’ll have to wait to see what the new information looks like when it’s filed.”

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Simpson said that the province could file revised charges against the accused companies though he said he’s not in the loop on the PPS’s decision-making.

“The fact that they have undertaken a review of the situation and have come to the conclusion they will take over the case means they believe that they have a reasonable chance of a conviction,” said Simpson.

Calls to the PPS were not immediately returned.

For now, Simpson says that the representatives of Brown will assume the role that the prosecution service had been carrying — observers to the case.

He says he would expect the PPS to file its new information and revised charges, if there are any at all, in the coming weeks.

The case is set to resume in court on Aug. 21.

READ MORE: Harrietsfield resident calls for swift cleanup of contaminated site in Nova Scotia

The provincial government says the defunct RDM Recycling site in Harrietsfield is leaching contaminants into the groundwater which is reaching the wells of nearby homes.

Last February, Environment Minister Margaret Miller issued cleanup orders to the two numbered companies that operated the site between 2002 and 2013. The orders replaced another one issued in 2010.

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According to Kailyn Mitchell, another lawyer who represents Brown, the companies have never fully complied with any of the orders.

— With files from Marieke Walsh, Global News

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