Dept. of Environment shuts down potato wash facility

Mike Carson newsroom@journalpioneer.com
Published on July 25, 2014

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.

mcarson@journalpioneer.com   

Chris Wall points to heavily silted water coming from the RWL Holdings Ltd. potato wash plant in Travellers Rest. Wall has been complaining to the P.E.I. Department of Environment since May over the state of the water leaving the plant and ending up in the Barbara Weit River. 

©Mike Carson/Journal Pioneer