Fumigant project approved for Island soil

TC Media newsroom@journalpioneer.com
Published on February 21, 2014
Fumigant Westech
Submitted photo

An environmental group says approval has been granted for a highly dangerous fumigant to be applied in Island soil just to see if it will contaminate groundwater.
"'I couldn't believe my eyes when I came across a tender for this project on a federal government website," said Earth Action co-ordinator, Sharon Labchuk "I believe it's time to raise the alarm."

Earth Action says a contract has been approved between Environment Canada and the P.E.I. government to allow Westech to apply the pesticide to strawberry runner fields this summer in West Prince just to see how much contamination leaches into groundwater.

"They will be using chloropicrin, an exceptionally hazardous chemical banned last year in the European Union, and prohibited for use in P.E.I. without a permit," said the Millvale resident.

The province has approved the project and granted a permit, but spokesman Wayne MacKinnon said it's a pilot research project for experimental purposes.

"They want to see if it will present any risk by using it,'' said MacKinnon in an interview.

"It's a concern no doubt, but it's also a way to monitor the impact. It's only a very small patch of land that will be treated and researchers will be able to determine if the pesticide reaches the water table."

MacKinnon said Westech currently fumigates soil with a methyl bromide product which is pending a ban and Environment Canada is monitoring the experiment as efforts are sought to find a suitable replacement product.

The P.E.I. Department of the Environment says it will not allow the use of chloropicrin until it is determined that groundwater contamination is unlikely in Island soils.

"I'm very concerned that between Westech and the potato industry lobby, the province will throw Islanders under the bus and give the OK to use these exceptionally hazardous soil fumigants."

There were a number of chloropicrin incidents in Ontario last year where residents near farm fields were evacuated and roads closed, and California has more than a thousand complaints on file about chloropicrin gas exposure as ban efforts are underway.