Environment Canada preparing to test agricultural fumigant chloropicrin

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ALBERTON – Environment Canada plans to allow a West Prince farm operation to test the fumigant chloropicrin on a small test plot in Ascension this year to determine whether the fumigant poses any threat to groundwater.

The decision to test the chemical follows an application by Alberton-based Westech Agriculture to use chloropicrin on its strawberry fields in place of the fumigant methyl bromide (MB), which, in accordance with the Montreal Protocol, has been prohibited in Canada under the Ozone-depleting Substances Regulations, since 2005.

An Environment Canada official said, because of no technically and economically feasible alternatives to MB for growers, Canada requested an exemption under the Montreal Protocol, yet remains committed to phasing it out.

Reached at the farm Friday, Westech Agriculture owner, Nora Dorgan, said the farm simply made application to use chloropicrin, that the actual testing is being conducted by Environment Canada.

The provincial Department of Environment is permitting the federal department to test the product on a small plot of strawberry plants.

“We saw that it is used in other parts of Canada, so we put an application in,” Dorgan said of the farm’s application to use chloropicrin. “What the powers that be decide beyond that is beyond my control.”

According to Environment Canada, the application of chloropicrin will be done in accordance with the product label. The area to be fumigated during the test will not exceed five acres.

Monitoring wells and lysimeters will be installed in order to collect groundwater and surface water samples, respectively, and samples will be tested by accredited laboratories in accordance with approved testing standards, an Environment Canada official confirmed.

The official indicated chloropicrin has been used in combination with other active ingredients since at least 2005.

Westech Agriculture did have an incident involving the use of a fumigant in 2001. Water testing by the P.E.I. Department of Environment at that time found four wells to be contaminated with dichloropropene, an active ingredient in the fumigant Telone C-17. The Province subsequently covered the cost of installing a small water system to supply five homes in town.

Mayor Michael Murphy expressed surprise that no one from either Environment departments contacted the town with regard to testing of chloropicrin, indicating he learned about it through a newspaper story.

“We are waiting for more information on when it’s going to happen, where it’s going to happen, but we will be voicing our concerns and asking questions about it,” he said.

He questioned the common sense in putting a fumigant in the ground to see if it will go into the water table.

“If it does go into the water table, what steps are they going to take to keep it from going any farther, and how are they going to get it back out of the water table?” he wondered.

Wayne MacKinnon with the P.E.I. Department of Environment pointed out the test will not be taking place anywhere near Alberton.

“It’s on Westech land that is away, quite far, from any residences,” he said.

Organizations: Environment Canada, Westech Agriculture, Montreal Protocol PEI Department Department of Environment

Geographic location: Canada, West Prince, Ascension

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  • Einstein
    March 03, 2014 - 10:16

    Chloropicrin is harmful to humans! So they're going to put more harmful chemicals into the soil in an attempt to clean out the bacteria and fungi overgrowth in PEI soil? Did anyone ever wonder why the soil is unfit in PEI for crop growing? It might have something to do with the years of indiscriminate spraying all in the name of high crop yields. Little wonder people are dying of cancer like flies in PEI.

  • UNBELIEVABLE
    March 03, 2014 - 07:23

    Kill the soil so they can dump more chemicals on it and hope it doesn't reach the water. That makes as much sense as pouring bleach in your coffee maker and expecting it not to reach your coffee. The farmers on this Island need to go back to their farming 101 class where they were supposed to learn that you get healthy plans from healthy soil. Stop trying to compete with nature. She will win so you may as well work WITH her instead of against her.

  • Wonder
    March 03, 2014 - 07:18

    Just look what we are doing to our environment and to our health. From deep water wells, chemicals, fracking and God knows what else from things we don't even know yet. We ask why P.E.I has one of the highest rates of cancer in the country? Give your heads a shake. All these things are for the almighty dollar. What about our legacy to our children?

  • Stewart Smith
    March 02, 2014 - 21:57

    "Westech land that is away, quite far, from any residences" - in fact, only one Westech property is 500 metres from the nearest property, the rest are much closer. 500m would be way too close if I lived there! This sounds just like Mr Raymond, who said we have "154 Olympic-sized swimming pools" of rain for every acre. Absolute nonsense, non-scientific and misleading uninformed nonsense.