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After decades of protests and legal battles, the Harrietsfield landfill is finally being cleaned up

Click to play video: 'Harrietsfield landfill to be cleaned up after years of legal battle' Harrietsfield landfill to be cleaned up after years of legal battle
WATCH: After years of protests and legal battles, a former contaminated landfill in Harrietsfield is being cleaned up. Equipment rolled into the site last week, and while it's a long time coming for area residents, it still doesn't address the larger issue for the community: access to clean drinking water. Ashley Field has more – Aug 28, 2020

After years of protests and legal battles the landfill of a defunct recycling plant near the community of Harrietsfield, N.S., is finally being cleaned up.

Equipment rolled into the site last week, and while it’s a long time coming for area residents, it still doesn’t address the larger issue for the community — access to clean drinking water.

Marlene Brown is a resident of Harrietsfield and for years, if she’s wanted a drink of water, she has had to rely on plastic water jugs or water from the nearby St. Paul’s United Church.

Read more: N.S. environment minister commits $250K to assess Harrietsfield water concerns

That’s because her water and the water of more than 50 homes in the community is toxic and it has been for more than 30 years.

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“My bathroom is totally destroyed. My faucet’s destroyed. I had a dishwasher — destroyed. I can’t have those luxuries,” she said.

Marlene Brown, a long-time resident of Harrietsville, N.S., in May 2019. Aya Al-Hakim/Global News

Her tap has eroded over the years from toxins that trickled into her well water.

The source was the former landfill which leached contaminants into the groundwater and eventually reached the wells of nearby homes, causing health problems like kidney and liver diseases.

“Since ’03, for 17 years, there’s been a plume of contaminated water leaching from this site,” Brown said.

Brown, 60, and residents in the area have been fighting for the site to be cleaned for more than a decade.

Click to play video: 'Ottawa commits funds to Harrietsfield water project' Ottawa commits funds to Harrietsfield water project
Ottawa commits funds to Harrietsfield water project – May 23, 2019

Now, there’s finally some light at the end of the tunnel.

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“I think it’s great, I think it’s surreal,” said Brown.

Crews are now working to clean up the site with preliminary plans for containment pads.

One that’s done, the crews will begin removing the waste.

Work is scheduled to be completed by late November.

The $15-million project is being paid for by the provincial and federal governments.

Although Brown says cleaning up the site is a good first step, she wants people to know that it will not give residents a clean water source.

Read more: Harrietsfield residents ‘angry’ over option to pay $26,000 per household for clean water

Last year in a meeting, staff with the Halifax Regional Municipality told residents of Harrietsfield that the installation of a water pipe system would cost $21 million.

The federal and provincial governments had agreed to cover parts of the project but residents would still have to pay $26,000 to $27,000 from their own pockets to run the pipe past their homes.

It would also cost residents an extra $5,000 to bring the pipe right up to their residence.

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In a statement, the municipality said it is continuing to monitor the issue.

“(The municipality is) awaiting the results of the ongoing federal/provincial project before we can clarify the municipality’s role, decide how to best engage the community, and pursue any appropriate action,” read the statement.

Brown is grateful but says there’s still more to be done.

“In my lifetime I don’t think I’ll ever be able to taste water from my tap and that’s sad,” she said.

“But at least children, my neighbours and stuff, they should be able to.”

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