ALBERTON -- Residents of St. Roche and area have scored at least a temporary reprieve in their battle to have a chemical study in their community halted.
Environment Canada had contracted Fredericton-based Stantec Consulting to conduct a monitoring study to determine the environmental effects on P.E.I. groundwater from the use of the pre-plant fumigant chloropicrin on strawberry runner production.
The study was commissioned after Alberton-based Westech Agriculture sought permission last year to test chloropicrin as a possible alternative to methyl bromide (MB) the fumigant it has been using in recent years.
Under the Montreal Protocol, MB’s use has been prohibited in Canada since 2005, but Westech Agriculture has been granted a critical use exemption until 2015.
Environment Canada awarded Stantec Consulting the monitoring study on the potential alternative fumigant late last year, but that study was recently suspended after Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) launched a new review of chloropicrin. The P.E.I. Department of Environment advised the federal department it would not allow chloropicrin to be applied while the PMRA review was underway, thus suspending the study here indefinitely.
Environment Canada, in an email response to questions, confirmed Wednesday that the monitoring study has been put on hold unto the results of the PMRA review are known.
The monitoring study was expected to run until early in 2015.
Opposition to the study included area watershed management groups and many residents of St. Roche and neighbouring communities who expressed concerns about possible water contamination.
John Lane, manager of the Cascumpec Bay Watershed Group, said he is pleased the study has been put on hold but cautions opponents from breathing a sigh of relief just yet. He suggested the study could potentially resume once the PMRA review is completed. He noted it would be up to the P.E.I. Department of Environment at that time to decide whether it will allow Environment Canada to proceed with the field test, but pointed out the provincial department has authority to prevent the fumigant’s use with or without the PMRA review.
Thane Clark, pesticide specialist with the P.E.I. Department of Agriculture, said the province has not yet received an application for the use of methyl bromide on the farm this year but said the pre-plant fumigant is not usually applied until the fall.