Open Letter to Minister Myers – Respect the Spirit and Intent of the Water Act

Honourable Stephen Myers, Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Action

Dear Mr. Myers:

We, the member organizations of the PEI Coalition for the Protection of Water, are writing this open letter to you to express our grave concern and huge disappointment regarding your recent announcement that all irrigation holding ponds and any others that may be built before June 16th of this year will be grandfathered, exempt from regulations associated with PEI’s Water Act.

We are also concerned that the PEI Government will now pay for and allow for high-capacity well research, which requires the construction of 5 new high-capacity wells for agricultural irrigation, despite the moratorium contained in the Water Act.

We believe these decisions are not in the public’s interest nor for the common good, and certainly do not protect our groundwater from exploitation and contamination. They represent a violation of the spirit of the Water Act that many Islanders have worked so hard to develop. Here is why:

  • Cavendish Farms, the PEI Federation of Agriculture and the PEI Potato board have been actively lobbying over the past few years to have the moratorium on high-capacity wells lifted.
  • Islanders have said “no” to high-capacity wells for agricultural irrigation. They have said “no” because of the need to protect our groundwater, our only source of drinking water and because PEI groundwater is under serious threat from industrial potato production and its contaminants – nitrates and pesticides.
  • The development of ‘irrigation holding ponds’ during the past four years reflects an attempt to circumvent the moratorium on high-capacity wells that has been allowed by government. 
  • There has never been an environmental assessment of ‘irrigation holding ponds’ or of their social impact on communities.
  • The high-capacity well research proposed by UPEI is a revision of a proposal for study initiated and funded by Cavendish Farms dating back 4 years with an explicit goal to increase potato productivity. And while the Cavendish Farm name is no longer on the proposal, and the PEI government is funding the work, we are concerned about the undue influence of industry on the research – that is the Federation of Agriculture, PEI Potato Board and Cavendish Farms.  We are concerned that the results will be contaminated by industry involvement, and not help to protect PEI water.

Therefore, we ask you as the Minister responsible to:

  1. Respect the intent and spirit of the Water Act.
  2. Ban the construction of ‘irrigation holding ponds’ immediately.
  3. Do not allow the grandfathering of irrigation holding ponds. Require all holding ponds to be compliant with the original draft regulations within 2 year as the Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability recommends.
  4. Do not allow the exemption to the moratorium on HC wells that would permit the construction of the 5 new HC wells required by the UPEI research.
  5. Introduce a plan that will begin the transition from an industrial model of farming with its high reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides to a more sustainable one, and one that recognizes the climate crisis facing Islanders and the planet.

Signed by:

Ellen’s Creek Watershed Group

Friends of Covehead-Brackley Bay

CUPE-PEI

Atlantic Canada Chapter of Sierra Club Canada 

Pesticide-Free PEI

Latin American Mission Program

Cooper Institute

Environmental Coalition of PEI

Save our Seas and Shores PEI

Council of Canadians – PEI Chapter

Blue Dot PEI

Hunter-Clyde Watershed Group

Cornwall and Area Watershed Group

Don’t Frack PEI

Trout River Environmental Committee

Citizens’ Alliance of Prince Edward Island

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