Dept. of Environment shuts down potato wash facility

Mike Carson
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TRAVELLERS REST – Concerns over the quality of the waste water from a high-speed potato wash facility has resulted in the P.E.I. Department of Environment shutting down the operation.


RWL Holdings Ltd. was advised by the Department of Environment Friday morning to stop all releases of wash water from the property. The water stopped flowing by late morning.

RWL will now put a plan in place to deal with the water issue, and have it approved by the department.

“Over the last two months, too much silt laden wash was being generated at the operation,” the department said.

In February, 2014, the Government of Canada, through ACOA’s Business Development Program, invested $500,000 towards the purchase of equipment for the operation and the provincial government through the Department of Agriculture and Forestry’s Growing Forward 2 Programs, invested a total of $69,000 in this project.

The move by the province comes after weeks of complaints filed by area resident Chris Wall over the plant’s operation.

“The issue here is the new potato washing plant that was constructed here in New Annan and to my knowledge they didn’t have any environmental assessment done,” Wall said. “They were suppose to reclaim 80 per cent of their water and the last time I talked to the environment department they were only reclaiming about 40 per cent.”

Wall said the company claims they have have improved that since then with some additional equipment.

“But the water is being allowed to drain out of the facility along side of the Confederation Trail underneath the McMurdo Road and its running down into the head waters of the Barbara Weit River,” Wall said. “That water shouldn’t be leaving the property until properly treated. The way it looks right now it’s certainly not properly treated.”                                                                      

Wall said he had complained originally on May 1 and heard numerous excuses from the provincial government, that rainwater coming off the roof was causing this discharge, and a large yard area was causing this discharge.

“But as you can clearly see, by the smell and the look of the water, it’s not coming off the roof and it’s not raining today (Friday),” he said. “The Barbara Weit River has been used too long as a dumping ground for individuals and corporations and it’s time to clean up the river and don’t allow this type of activity to continue. This is the 21st century not 1800s.”

Wall said he is concerned about the fate of the river.

“The Barbara Weit River is not very far from going anoxic,” he said. “I was told that there was too much suspended solids entering the watershed. That creates oxygen demand and that will lead to an anoxic event or help speed up an anoxic event.”

He said the river has been somewhat improved due to the additional treatment facilities of Cavendish Farms over the last number of years.

“But we’re taking baby steps ahead,” Wall said. “We don’t want to take baby steps behind as well.”

Wall said Department of Environment officials have told him that new equipment is on order to help deal with the issue.

“But all the time they’re telling me this the water is allowed to continue to run and suspiciously seems to run harder at night or on weekends,” he said. “I can’t believe the environment department would idly sit by and allow this to happen. They’re supposed to be protecting the environment. It’s a detrimental operation to the environment and to the Barbara Weit River.”

Austin Roberts, co-owner of RWL Holdings Ltd. could not be reached for comment.   

Organizations: RWL Holdings, Department of Environment, Department of Agriculture and Forestry

Geographic location: Barbara Weit River, Canada, New Annan McMurdo Road

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Recent comments

  • Area Resident
    August 01, 2014 - 13:46

    My parents and I live in this area right across from the field. The true story of this that has been told by the people who sold the land is that they were originally told the land would be used for farming/agriculture. Well by the smell of it? There is no such farming going on. The people in this community never have complaints about anything but when the smell is so bad that you can'y even hang your clothes out to dry let alone sit outside on a nice day is very frustrating. Not only is there the problem with their water run off but the smell that comes across to our homes is horrible. Not to mention they have now put two hills up on the property and the smell only comes when they have trucks in there bringing stuff in. I think the Dept. of Environment should look more closely into this and come talk to some homeowners that are having issues to this problem really does get solved.

  • spud
    July 27, 2014 - 09:53

    So here we have rwl breaking enviromential rules of the province. The w of rwl also sits on minister sherrys adviseory board on deep water wells while his son is lobbying for them with cavendish farms and linkletter farms none of them can be trusted!!

    July 26, 2014 - 12:30

    The Govt. of Canada didn't "invest" one nickle in this company. They either gave them a grant or a very low or non-existant interest loan.

  • Linda Shw
    July 25, 2014 - 20:05

    Well done Chris Wall for standing up to Dept. of Environment. As well, M Carson for the write up!

    July 25, 2014 - 17:34

    If they want answers, call Robert Irving, not Austin Roberts. This is all about Cavendish Farms.