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Organic Consumers Association

Municipalities Can Ban Biosolids, Lawyer Says

Nova Scotia municipalities have the authority to enact bylaws banning the use of biosolids, according to legal advice given to an environmental group.

"It appears that a municipality in Nova Scotia has the authority to pass a bylaw to prohibit the application of biosolids on private property if such a bylaw were passed to protect the health, well-being and safety of persons or property in that municipality," said Halifax lawyer Derek Simon.

"The municipality would have to be able to show some proof of the potential for harm to health, safety or well-being,"

Simon, with the law firm Burchells LLP in Halifax, made the comments in a letter to the chairwoman of the Nova Scotia Environmental Network's biosolids and waste-water caucus.

The proof does not have to be conclusive but should be sufficient to show a risk of serious or irreversible damage, he said in the seven-page letter to Marilyn Cameron.

"We've been advised by a lawyer that municipalities do have the authority to enact a moratorium," Cameron said in an interview.

"That is, if they have the political will to protect the well-being and health of the public and their property from the toxic effects of biosolids."

Last fall, Kings County council sent a letter to Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau asking for a halt to the application of biosolids on farmland until questions about heavy metals and chemicals are addressed.

The minister responded in a Nov. 9, 2009, letter that "the department does not have a mandate to restrict the use of approved products or to prevent land-use activities in specific counties of the province."

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