ALBERTON – Phase One of the monitoring study to determine the environmental effects of the use of chloropicrin in the pre-plant fumigation of strawberry runner production on groundwater in P.E.I. is already underway.
An Environment Canada official confirmed Wednesday the contract was awarded to Fredericton-based Stantec Consulting Ltd. in November following a competitive bid process.
Westech Agriculture, an Alberton-based strawberry operation that grows strawberry runners for export, applied last fall for permission to use the fumigant chloropicrin in place of methyl bromide, the fumigant it has been using in recent years.
In accordance with the Montreal Protocol, methyl bromide has officially been prohibited in Canada since 2005 under the ozone-depleting substances regulations, but Canada has obtained exemptions because there were no known technically and economically feasible alternatives to it.
In its call for proposals, Environment Canada noted several strawberry runner growers in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia have phased-out methyl bromide and are now using Chloropicrin 100 Liquid Soil Fumigant. It adds that, at this time, the P.E.I. Department of the Environment is not prepared to allow the use of Chloropicrin 100 until it is established that groundwater contamination is unlikely in P.E.I. soil conditions and for specific use patterns. EC’s background information also indicates that currently, chloropicrin appears to be the only technically and economically feasible commercially available alternative to methyl bromide for the P.E.I. strawberry runner grower.
Thus the interest in field-testing chloropicrin.
The P.E.I. Department of Environment granted Environment Canada permission to test the fumigant in a test site of up to five acres. Westech Agriculture will provide the land for the study and is responsible for providing any information the contractor needs to better understand the site characteristics, such as previous pesticide use.
A P.E.I. Department of Environment official indicated last week the field-testing will be carried out in the Ascension area.
Some residents in and around Ascension have started a letter-writing campaign to federal and provincial politicians expressing their concerns about the fumigant’s use in their communities.
The study started in late 2013 and is expected to run until early in 2015.