Sharon Labchuk says her party would prefer the province go to organic agriculture, but as long as chemical sprays are used they must be controlled
Green Party leader demands better pesticide regulation after spill not far from home
The head of P.E.I.'s Green Party is demanding tougher regulation of pesticides following a spill she says threatens the safety of drinking water in her community.
Sharon Labchuk held a news conference Friday to say she was dissatisfied with the resolution of a court case that saw Kinkora potato growers Emerald Isle Holdings fined $5,000 after one of its sprayers leaked chemicals into ground down the road from Labchuk's Millvale home.
In court this week, the farm pleaded guilty to letting pesticides drain from its equipment, agreeing that some 95 litres contaminated soil last September before the leak was discovered and contaminated soil removed.
Labchuk, who first discovered and reported the spill, said she thinks the province should do a lot more to tighten up pesticide use. She said she and her party would rather see the entire province move to organic agriculture, but for as long as man-made chemical sprays are used they should be tightly controlled.
Flanked by neighbours and Green candidates Jamie Larkin and Denise Reiser, Labchuk demanded a multi-pronged approach to sprays.
She said all spraying equipment should be inspected annually, that sprayers should never be driven or transported on highways while containing chemicals and that sprayers should not be allowed to sit idle in fields while they contain chemicals.
"If there are chemicals in them, take them back to your place and put them on an approved pesticide-spill pad," Labchuk said, adding she has been told there are portable spill pads on the market that could provide some safety when machinery is left in the field.
To improve enforcement of pesticide rules, Labchuk said she'd like to see fines increased, to see pesticide users held liable for any damage and to have the laws changed so there is a legal requirement to report any spills.
Sigrid Rolfe, a 30-year resident of Millvale, said she has never had any contact with either the farmer who uses the affected field across from her home, nor from provincial Environment or Health officials. She said for most off that time the land was used as pasture, only switching to cash crops in the past decade.
"Like most Islanders I have concerns about the impact of pesticides on our air, on our water and on our environment," Rolfe said. "This whole incident brought it very close to home for me."
Angelica McKann said she and her family moved to Millvale in part because the hilly country there seemed like a place where they would be safe from potato sprays.
"It's very disturbing that this has happened near us," she said. "I find myself astonished and upset that there isn't more concern for the children on P.E.I."