Standing Committee’s Findings – April 5th, 2014

Friday in the provincial legislature was informative (the high capacity well issue) and parts just a bit bombastic (the HST accounting questions during Question Period).

MLA Paula Biggar, who is chairperson for the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry, tabled a report from her committee about its work and recommendations to the Legislature.

The committee said they strongly urge the moratorium on high capacity wells for agriculture not be lifted, as they want to let the last people present to them sometime after the House is done sitting (May?).  They also recommend that “Government develop a Water Act.”

Select Friday, April 4th, and it is about 66 minutes into the broadcast.
Legislative Assembly Video Archives

3:50 into the broadcast
Compass TV News from Friday night

A few comments:
As someone posted on Facebook — “Breathing room.  But no complacency.” — as a committee’s recommendation is not binding, and though reported on CBC, I don’t think it was the committee who was approached to lift the moratorium in the first place.

Here is a link to the Committee’s report that was tabled (five pages).

The transcript of today’s proceedings will be available here sometime early next week:

Do look at the whole five page report when you get a chance.  Note both the fact that Minister Webster is listed as having made a written submission, and the line in the report (bold is mine) shows that no final decision has been made is in bold here:

3. At the present time, your committee does not recommend any changes to the 2002 moratorium on new high capacity wells for agricultural irrigation.
Your committee wishes to continue its investigations into this matter, including hearing from the witnesses that were prevented from appearing due to bad weather, and additional individuals and organizations that have expressed interest. This has proven to be a complex issue and your committee does not wish to make recommendations prematurely. Witnesses to date have made compelling arguments both for and against the lifting of the moratorium, and your committee continues to consider these very carefully. The interest of so many individuals and groups and the capacity attendance at committee meetings to date speak to how important this issue, and water in general, is to Islanders. Your committee’s work is not done on this issue.

And it is likely there will be more ad-ucation from the Potato Board in the paper in the coming weeks…

But, overall, people taking notice of this issue, and coming to committee meetings, writing letters (which is key!), planning and attending public information events like the forum with Maude Barlow, and urging organizations to take a stand on this, and a group like the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water forming — all make a huge difference for the future of this Island.

Perhaps there is a change in the season.

The following is the report:

April 4, 2014

Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry Second Report of the Fourth Session, Sixty-fourth General Assembly Committee Activities and Request to Meet Intersessionally

Madam Speaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly:


The Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry is pleased to present its report to the Members of the Legislative Assembly concerning its activities during the Fourth Session of the Sixty-fourth General Assembly.


The Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry is charged with matters concerning agriculture, environment, energy and forestry. In addition, it may, by majority opinion, meet to examine and inquire into such matters and things as the committee deems appropriate.


Permanent members of your committee are:

Paula Biggar, Chair (District 23, Tyne Valley-Linkletter) James Aylward (District 6, Stratford-Kinlock)
Kathleen Casey (District 14, Charlottetown-Lewis Point) Bush Dumville (District 15, West Royalty-Springvale) Colin LaVie (District 1, Souris-Elmira)

Pat Murphy (District 26, Alberton-Roseville)
Hal Perry (District 27, Tignish-Palmer Road)
Buck Watts (District 8, Tracadie-Hillsborough Park)

Sonny Gallant (District 24, Evangeline-Miscouche) and Charles McGeoghegan (District 4, Belfast-Murray River) also served as substitute members.

Committee Activities

On February 5 your committee met to consider its work plan.

On February 13 your committee met to receive a presentation on deep well irrigation by Hon. Janice Sherry, Bruce Raymond and Jim Young of the Department of Environment, Labour and Justice.

On February 27 your committee met to receive presentations on deep well irrigation by the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water, and Keptin John Joe Sark.

On March 6 your committee met to receive presentations on deep well irrigation by the National Farmers Union, the PEI Watershed Alliance, the Central Queens Branch of the PEI Wildlife Federation, the Green Party of PEI, and Innovative Farms Group.

On March 14 your committee met to receive a presentation on the hog industry by the PEI Hog Commodity Marketing Board; and presentations on deep well irrigation by the Cooper Institute, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI, the PEI Federation of Agriculture, the Environmental Coalition of PEI, the Council of Canadians, Daryl Guignion, the PEI Shellfish Association, and the New Democratic Party of PEI.

An additional meeting was scheduled, but was twice canceled due to inclement weather. The following individuals and organizations were scheduled to present to the committee at this meeting: the Institute for Bioregional Studies (on the agriculture industry); Horace Carver, QC (on the Report of the Commission on the Lands Protection Act); and Dr. Adam Fenech, Hon. George Webster, the PEI Potato Board, the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club Canada, and Cavendish Farms (on deep well irrigation).

On April 3 your committee met to consider its report to the Assembly.

1. Your committee recommends that Government consider ways in which it can assist the PEI hog industry with the cost of shipping hogs to off-Island processing facilities.

The PEI hog industry has faced significant challenges in recent years. The number of hog farmers has dropped dramatically since the late 1970s, yet the few remaining in the industry have managed to keep the number of hogs shipped to market on a weekly basis roughly the same. According to information provided to your committee, the industry accounts for 3.5% of PEI’s agricultural GDP, yet receives less than 0.25% of provincial money allocated to agriculture. After several years of negative margins, current conditions in the industry point toward a profitable future. However, PEI’s producers remain at a disadvantage in that they must ship their hogs to Quebec for processing, costing them more than $12 more per hog above what other Canadian hog farmers pay on average for transportation. Measures to help ease the burden of hog transportation would encourage the sustainability and profitability of the PEI hog industry.

2. Your committee strongly recommends that Government develop a Water Act.

3. At the present time, your committee does not recommend any changes to the 2002 moratorium on new high capacity wells for agricultural irrigation.

Your committee wishes to continue its investigations into this matter, including hearing from the witnesses that were prevented from appearing due to bad weather, and additional individuals and organizations that have expressed interest. This has proven to be a complex issue and your committee does not wish to make recommendations prematurely. Witnesses to date have made compelling arguments both for and against the lifting of the moratorium, and your committee continues to consider these very carefully. The interest of so many individuals and groups and the capacity attendance at committee meetings to date speak to how important this issue, and water in general, is to Islanders. Your committee’s work is not done on this issue.


Your committee extends its thanks to the various individuals and organizations that shared their views in the past several months. The committee members hope Islanders continue to advocate for issues of importance in the areas of agriculture, environment, energy and forestry.

By receipt and adoption of this report, your committee requests permission to meet beyond prorogation of the Fourth Session of the Sixty-fourth General Assembly in order to complete its business intersessionally.

Respectfully submitted,

Paula Biggar, MLA
Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry


Witnesses Appearing Before the Committee

Allen, Boyd (Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water) Angus, Randy (Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI) Bevan-Baker, Peter (Green Party of PEI)
Broderick, Leo (Council of Canadians)

Burge, Marie (Cooper Institute)
Cameron, Dale (PEI Watershed Alliance)
Campbell, Brenda (PEI Shellfish Association)
Corrigan, Cathy (PEI Watershed Alliance)
Dingwell, Scott (PEI Hog Commodity Marketing Board)
Douglas, Angela (PEI Watershed Alliance)
Dupuis, Todd (Atlantic Salmon Federation)
Durant, Mike (Central Queens Branch, PEI Wildlife Federation)
Guignion, Daryl
Harris, Megan (Central Queens Branch, PEI Wildlife Federation)
Hill, Loman (PEI Shellfish Association)
Jamieson, John (PEI Federation of Agriculture)
Keenan, Alvin (PEI Federation of Agriculture)
Lanthier, Darcie (Green Party of PEI)
Larsen, Paul (PEI Hog Commodity Marketing Board)
Ling, Edith (National Farmers Union)
MacKinnon, Steven (National Farmers Union)
MacLeod, Leah (Cooper Institute)
Mazer, Don (Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water)
McKenna, Gordon (Innovative Farms Group)
McRae, Daniel (Environmental Coalition of PEI)
Mogan, Darragh (New Democratic Party of PEI)
Murray, Barry (PEI Watershed Alliance)
O’Brien, Catherine (Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water)
Phelan, Reg (National Farmers Union)
Raymond, Bruce (Department of Environment, Labour and Justice)
Redmond, Mike (New Democratic Party of PEI)
Robinson, Mary (PEI Federation of Agriculture)
Sark, Keptin John Joe
Schurman, Kevin (Innovative Farms Group)
Seeber, Tim (PEI Hog Commodity Marketing Board)
Sherry, Hon. Janice, Minister of Environment, Labour and Justice and Attorney General Webster, Jason (Innovative Farms Group)
Wheatley, Ann (Environmental Coalition of PEI)
Young, Jim (Department of Environment, Labour and Justice)


Written Submissions Received by the Committee

Beck, Jenny
Beck, Jim and Marion
Beck, Ken
Beck, Ruth and John
Durant, Mike (Central Queens Branch, PEI Wildlife Federation) Ing, David
Jamieson, John (PEI Federation of Agriculture)
MacDonald, Donald
PEI Potato Board
Phelan, Reg
Reddin, Ellie (Save Our Seas and Shores, PEI Chapter)
Reddin, Tony (Environmental Coalition of PEI)
Smith, Kip
Southward, Peter
Te Raa, John
Webster, Hon. George, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry


Standing Committee’s Report on Deep Wells

Here is information forwarded from Committee Clerk Ryan Reddin regarding today’s announcement (in red):

To past witnesses and those who have expressed interest in appearing before the committee;
The committee’s report on its activities was tabled in the legislature today and is available here:
(Under Committee Reports for 2014, select the proper committee and then the report entitled “Committee Activities and Request to Meet Intersessionally”)
You can also watch the proceedings in which the report was tabled at the Assembly Video Archive located here:
(Choose the video for April 4)
The transcript of today’s proceedings will be available here in the near future:
In regard to the moratorium on new high capacity wells for agricultural irrigation, the report notes that the committee has not completed its examinations of this issue and still wishes to hear from witnesses who were prevented from appearing due to bad weather and additional witnesses who have expressed interest in appearing. Additional committee meetings will likely take place after the legislative session finishes later this spring, and I will be touch with those witnesses at that time.
Ryan Reddin
Research Officer & Committee Clerk

Additional comments from Chris:
Gary found the direct link to the report here:

Do look at the whole five page report when you get a chance.  Both the fact that Minister Webster is listed as having made a written submission, and the line in the report (bold is mine)…

3. At the present time, your committee does not recommend any changes to the 2002 moratorium on new high capacity wells for agricultural irrigation.
Your committee wishes to continue its investigations into this matter, including hearing from the witnesses that were prevented from appearing due to bad weather, and additional individuals and organizations that have expressed interest. This has proven to be a complex issue and your committee does not wish to make recommendations prematurely. Witnesses to date have made compelling arguments both for and against the lifting of the moratorium, and your committee continues to consider these very carefully. The interest of so many individuals and groups and the capacity attendance at committee meetings to date speak to how important this issue, and water in general, is to Islanders. Your committee’s work is not done on this issue.

…reminds us that we will need to continue to watch and plan!

Paula tables the report at about 66 minutes into the broadcast on the Legislative Assembly video link.

I have written back to Ryan Reddin asking if the written submission by Minister Webster is available publicly.

And it is likely there will be more ad-ucation from the Potato Board in the paper in the coming weeks…

Cancelled again!

The Standing Committee Meeting on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and and Forestry is NOT meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, April 1st, to have briefings by Horace Carver and more presentations on the high capacity well issue.

It appears the meeting **won’t be rescheduled until after the Legislature finishes the Spring Sitting**, so that would be likely be in May.

Legislative Committee website link

Last Standing Committee Presentations Moved

… to Tuesday!

Not Monday: The Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry has changed the date of the last meeting before the Spring Sitting of the Legislature from Monday to Tuesday, April 1st, at 9AM, at the Pope Room of the Coles Building. It is likely to go until 1PM at least, but one presenter is not on the revised notice (Minister Webster). I only received the notice Friday afternoon and have no explanations for the change in time or change in presenters. Please check to see if you can pop in for a bit.


High capacity wells issue goes much deeper

It was placed in the middle bottom of the far right editorial page, under a charming article that had a photo with a Big Bird puppet, that space that’s easy politely to ignore….but it says so much.

High capacity wells issue goes much deeper
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on March 26, 2014
By Peter Bevan-Baker (commentary)

If you have been promoting green ideas for a quarter of a century, as I have, you almost expect your warnings of imminent crisis to be politely ignored or gently ridiculed. Such was the case last week when Darcie Lanthier and I made a presentation to the standing committee which is receiving submissions on the high capacity well issue.

It is clear that this matter has struck a chord with Islanders who fear for the safety of their water, but this issue goes much, much deeper than the underground aquifer at the centre of the debate. Prince Edward Island is on the cusp of an important decision: one that will shape the agricultural, social and economic future of our province. For many decades, when it comes to agriculture, P.E.I. has followed the conventional industrial pattern of consolidation, monoculture, dependence on fossil-fuel inputs and competing in a global market place. Successive Island governments have welcomed, aided and abetted this model, embracing the economic activity and jobs which flowed from it. But we have also paid a high price. Rural Prince Edward Island has been decimated, farmers bankrupted, farmland damaged, drinking water contaminated, rivers and estuaries spoiled, and Islandersʼ health compromised. Somehow we have accepted all these problems as a tolerable cost of doing business. But for how much longer should, or even can we do this?

We have other options: choices which promise not only to reverse the ills of the current model but which will forge a future for P.E.I. which is safe, prosperous and sustainable.

Proponents of the industrial model like to talk about how it is such a sophisticated approach to food production. The Federation of Agriculture repeatedly talked about conventional agriculture as not simply the only hope to grow food for an expanding population, but also the most precise, efficient, refined approach. On both counts they are absolutely wrong. Growing more Russet Burbanks of consistent size has nothing to do with feeding the world, and everything to do with feeding a voracious corporate master that cares nothing for the land from which their product comes, nor the well-being of those who provide it for minimal return. And there is nothing sophisticated about planting a single variety of crop over thousands of acres and then continuously dousing it in chemical-based fertilizers and pesticides so that it survives to maturity. Real sophistication in agriculture comes from developing systems over hundreds of generations that work with nature, not war against it; building up soil health; planting multiple varieties of different crops in long rotations; practising mixed farming using natural, home-grown inputs; and producing high-quality, safe, nutritious food.

In our presentation, we cited several global systems which are showing signs of overwhelming stress energy, water and food supplies, and climatic and economic stability. If any one of these parts of our human support system were to collapse, we are in deep trouble. Following our submission, there was not one question from any committee member related to this central part of our presentation. As I said, you get used to being ignored. Less than a week later, a report commissioned by NASA, based on concerns in exactly the same areas as Darcie and I had highlighted, stated the following: “closely reflecting the reality of the world today… we find that collapse is difficult to avoid.” It is less easy for members of the standing committee and Islanders in general to ignore these sorts of warnings when they come from institutions such as NASA, and writers like Jared Diamond, whose book “Collapse; How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed,” written in 2005 predicted many of our current day problems.

P.E.I. has an enviable opportunity: to be ahead of the rest of the world, and to embrace a future that will provide us with more jobs, more prosperity, better products and rejuvenated rural communities. This is about more than water, it is about choosing the future of our province we prefer; one that will succeed.
– Peter Bevan-Baker is leader of the Green Party of P.E.I.

March 23rd, 2014

And from Friday’s Guardian,  from Ralph MacDonald:
Small Island canʼt risk wells
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on March 21, 2014
I donʼt think most of us know enough about the deep-water wells issue in this province but I do think that you donʼt have to be a trained scientist to realize that these proposed wells would be detrimental to our ground water for years to come. Betty Howatt said it well: “weʼre sitting on a sandbar surrounded by water” and with that itʼs very obvious that this small piece of land, surrounded by water, cannot sustain deep wells without dire consequences. Is it a point of greed, is it something the growers are putting a deaf ear to, the list goes on?
If the deep water wells come to pass it could cause irreparable damage to groundwater, do we want to risk it? All the streams that get contaminated every year, and this is ground water, with runoff is sufficient to contend with. Once again, do we want to risk it?
Ralph MacDonald,

And Saturday’s, a Carl Mathis moment, reminding us that smiling is good for us in such absurd times:
A longer fry really the key
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on March 22, 2014

Well, well, finally, the great light has come on. If it were just for the size of the potato crop, the processing plants would not need the deep wells. They have fired workers because there is a world glut of fries. There was a movie, wasn’t there, called “The Longest Fry?”
The solution, without any deep wells, is to get the Food Technology Centre to come up with potato glue, so they can glue fries together to make the longest fry. Whatever the serving size at McDonald’s, that would be one long fry. Super size that, and it would be one longer fry. Really biggie that, and build the longest fry.
People would be called back to work as fry gluers. They could work in teams, several people to a fry. The plants could be expanded, adding very long, narrow rooms to have the spaces to glue up these longest fries.
New long fryers would be needed in every fast food restaurant, and they would need new packaging, giving us another industry. The county fairs would have long fry eating contests, announcing how many yards of fries the winner ate.
Share a fry with your sweetie. You start at opposite ends and eat until you meet at the middle. Mmmmmm.
All would be well, then, but not deep wells.
Carl Mathis,

Upcoming event:
A second Connect Meeting (nationwide groups with local branches working on electoral reform):
“Join us for the second Connect Meeting held by island members of Leadnow on Tuesday, March 25 at 7:00 pm at the Haviland Club (2 Haviland Street in Charlottetown) is an independent advocacy organization that is working to build a stronger democracy that protects our environment, creates economic opportunity while increasing equality, and guarantees that everyone receives the care they need.

Leadnow is launching its 2014-15 Plan and we’re inviting Fair Vote members and other interested parties to join us in the planning process for the leadup to the next federal election.Our current focus is electoral reform. Hear about Leadnow’s current campaigns and how you can help. For more information go to or call 626-4364.”

Great to see groups with similar interests working together!!

March 22nd, 2014

Apparently, the “ad-as-news-story” deal is still on at The Guardian, as evidenced by this story on A4 of Friday’s print edition; it was the lead story on-line for most of the day.  The story has a “graphic supplied by the P.E.I. Potato Board” graphic, now nicely colourized from their print ad last week and a huge quarter-page in the print edition:
Guardian heralds Potato Board

P.E.I. Potato Board heralds environmental record

image copyright PEI Potato Board

(There is no by-line for this story, but presumably it was a staff writer….at the Potato Board….)

The P.E.I. Potato Board says itʼs time for the public to move past the history and look at what todayʼs potato growers are doing to protect the environment.
Gary Linkletter, chairman of the P.E.I. Potato Board, emphasizes that “potato farmers of today have learned a lot from past challenges and are making tangible changes in production practices in order to farm in a more environmentally sustainable fashion.”
In a news release, Linkletter says P.E.I. farmers have the highest level of enhanced environmental farm planning in Canada and also farm under the most stringent environmental legislation in Canada.
“This means P.E.I. potato growers meet and often exceed both voluntarily developed and regulated standards that are higher than any other farmers in the country,” said Linkletter.
Through collaborative effort between potato growers and the P.E.I. Department of Agriculture, construction of soil conservation structures has resulted in 1.1 million feet of terraces, 2.1 million feet of grassed waterways and 270,000 feet of farmable berms.
Potato growers also use a wide range of other tools to improve environmental sustainability, Linkletter said.
The approaches include use of buffer zones and set aside of sensitive land, nutrient management, strip cropping, crop rotation and residue-tillage equipment, new and lower input potato varieties and integrated pest management.
Another initiative, Farming 4R Island, partners with other industry players to foster beneficial management practices that protect soil quality and reduce nitrate levels.
“Todayʼs grower is looking to be more efficient, more effective and be more environmental responsible. Thatʼs why weʼre interested in supplemental irrigation. The Department of the Environment has indicated that agricultural irrigation accounts for only one per cent of total water usage,” said Linkletter, as he and the potato board continue lobbying for deep-water wells in the province.
“Some preliminary studies performed as part of the nitrate pilot project with the Kensington North Watershed Group in 2013 showed an 11.5 per cent increase in income per acre with supplemental irrigation due to increased marketable yields, while another test from the same study showed a reduction in average residual nitrate levels by 31.4 per cent. Thatʼs very encouraging information for people interested in having a viable potato industry while trying to be even more environmentally responsible.”

Two comments:
So many farmers have environmental farm plans — great, but:  Farmers *have* to have an environmental farm plan in place to qualify for related programs and grants.

And the pilot project being done mentioned in the last paragraph?  So, can that study be released for others to review it?


In the letters section were two letters on high capacity wells, and one on pesticides. I’ll reprint the other well one tomorrow.
Bethany Doyle’s letter:

True impact of wells remains to be done

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on March 21, 2014

In the Guardian editorial of March 12, the editor claims that if irrigation is needed, deep-water wells are the most efficient option. Since opposition to deep-water wells is pervasive and well reasoned, I believe that we need to give serious consideration to other ways of solving the problem such as improving the health of the soil.
In the same editorial, the editor refers to “other provinces or states where opposition to deep water wells is limited.” The reason opposition to deep-water wells may be limited in other places is that P.E.I. faces unique water supply challenges. Because of our soil structure and our dependence on groundwater as the sole supplier of drinking water, our water supply is uniquely fragile. We need to take great caution. And we need to find in our unique challenges incentive to work to improve the health of the soil so that there is an increase in its water-holding capacity.
The editor also says that “the standing committee and government have difficult tasks ahead as they must decide if compromise is possible to protect our water resource even if science supports additional deep-water wells . . .” This seems to imply that “science” supports additional deep-water wells while in fact many believe that credible scientific data come from peer-reviewed studies. Such studies regarding the true impact of deep-water wells on aquatic ecosystems have yet to be done.
The current moratorium on deep-water wells makes good sense and needs to be maintained.
Bethany Doyle,
Joan Diamond writes about (not) being protected from pesticides
Protection from pesticides? Afraid not
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on March 21, 2014
By Joan Diamond (commentary)

As a rural inhabitant of P.E.I., I have always been concerned about the rampant use of pesticides here. So when I recently heard that potatoes would be planted this year in the field 25 feet from my doorway, I decided to do some research about what kind of protection is provided for home owners in a situation like mine. Apparently, absolutely zero is the answer. A quick look at the P.E.I. Department of Environment Frequently Asked Questions, gave this concise information on the subject. source: /index.php3?number=1040762&lang=E
2. Do farmers have to provide advance notice,
to homeowners whose property adjoins the farmerʼs field, when they plan to make a pesticide application?
No. Farmers do not have to provide advance notification of a pesticide application. However, when asked to do so, most are happy to provide this information.
3.  How close to my property line can my neighbour, or someone acting on his/her behalf, apply a pesticide?
A pesticide can be legally applied to the edge of a property line.
4.   Are there pesticide-free ʻbuffer zonesʼ around schools, parks, playgrounds, and sports fields in P.E.I.?
No. There are no pesticide-free buffer zones around these areas.
5. If I receive a written notice that a neighbour is having a pesticide applied to their property, can I legally STOP this application?
No. A property owner has a legal right to apply a pesticide to their property if they wish to do so.
6. I have received a written notice that a neighbour is having a pesticide applied to his/her property, but the notice does not provide the specific address of the property. Does the applicator have to provide this information to me?
No. Regulations under the P.E.I. Pesticides Control Act require that advance written notification must be provided to individuals who live within 25 metres of an area that is to be treated with a pesticide. The regulations do not require that the applicator provide the specific address of the property to be treated.
7. When is the wind blowing too strongly to apply a liquid pesticide, or a pesticide under pressure?
Regulations under the P.E.I. Pesticides Control Act set a maximum wind speed of 20 km/hr. However, even if the wind speed is below this level, it is the applicatorʼs responsibility to make sure that there is no drift of pesticide onto neighbouring properties.
One would think that with ongoing fish kills, high nitrate levels and some of the highest rates of cancer, asthma and autism in Canada, a red flag would be going up. One would think, as I did, that there would be some limitations in place to protect Islanders. Instead, farmers are looking to dig deeper wells, which will undoubtedly have further detrimental effects on our already tainted water.
Pesticides are toxins, toxins we continue dumping into our soil and air in every non-organic potato field approximately 15 to 20 times each season.
Yet Islanders continue to be surprised about hearing every day about another friend being diagnosed with cancer, or another child being born with asthma or autism.
We are allowing this to happen. It is time for change. If you care about the health of Islanders, present and future, then take action. Write a letter to the editor, contact our minister of Environment and/or our premier. Buy organic produce, locally when you can. Get involved. Make some noise.

Joan Diamond is a rural Islander who lives in Fairview

The Department of Environment webpage cited is here
and a screenshot is below:

March 21st, 2014

And a very good letter from last month about the high capacity wells, that took a while to get posted on the Guardian website:

Causeways back then, deep-water wells now
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on February 14, 2014
A Reader’s View

In the ongoing debate over deep-water irrigation wells was heard this comment: “We donʼt know what we donʼt know.” To some this comment would be profound, while to others inane.
It brought to mind a raging debate, of years gone by, over the provincial governmentʼs (of that day) decision to replace bridges and build causeways over the North and West rivers.
Avid fishers, hunters and others (my grandfather among them), voiced their strong opposition to the move, citing their great concern that such a move would kill the headwaters of these two important river systems, doing irreparable harm to the ecology of these two watershed areas.
The opposition voiced that the causeways would critically interfere with the tidal flushing of the rivers, flushings that were critical to keeping the headwaters alive and healthy, and by extension fish life and wild life alive and healthy.
The engineers and scientists, of the day, defended the governments move and voiced their ʻstudiedʼ opinions that no such harm would befall these two rivers headwaters, as the designed openings would be sufficient to allow the necessary flushing actions up the rivers.
Decades later it was determined that these headwaters were dead or dying, and something must be done to improve the flushing actions of the tides.
As a result the government of that day, acted to widen the spillway of the North River at Cornwall, and added a second bridge to the West River causeway, allowing greater
volumes of water to flow with the tidal actions
As a young teenager, father, my brother, and myself would fish off the bridge in Milton, catching some large and healthy trout. Alas, today the river in Milton is but a narrow stream compared to what it was 55 years ago.
What I have learned from all of this is that we are limited in our knowledge of things and there is much we (scientists included) have yet to learn and understand about all things. And, contrary to many expert opinions on this matter, nothing is absolute.
The opening statement, to me, is profound, and I say ʻnoʼ to lifting the ban on deep-water wells.
Bob Crockett, 

March 18th, 2014

News and letters:

In yesterday’s Guardian,  from the Island Nature Trust board:

Province needs water management plan
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on March 18, 2014
A Reader’s View
Domestic, industrial and agriculture water use is rising across Canada, putting many rivers and lakes under increasing strain. As an organization that works to protect natural areas across P.E.I., Island Nature Trust is concerned that any increase in the number of high-capacity groundwater wells will affect fish and wildlife in the province negatively. How much water can be withdrawn while still maintaining healthy natural aquatic ecosystems? It takes the expertise of hydrologists, engineers and biologists to understand and predict the changes in fish habitat in response to altered flow regimes/water systems.
Conservation practices such as longer crop rotations that include forages, better residue management and strip cropping increase the moisture holding capacity of the soil. The presence of organic matter enhances the soilʼs structure, thermal, and nutritional regimes; and decreases wind and water erosion. Healthy soils hold moisture better than those with low organic material. In other words, soils with high organic matter need less water for healthy plant growth.
Withdrawing water from existing ground water supplies at times of the year when those water levels are at their lowest and at a time when 100 per cent of the surface water flow is from groundwater (springs) will further reduce the volume of ground water flowing into springs, streams, rivers and estuaries. Reduced water flow coupled with high levels of nutrients currently found in the very potato-rich watersheds to be irrigated in central P.E.I., will lead to increased over-nutrification of water systems and then to an increase in anoxic events.
Wildlife in all parts of waterways will be affected by less water and by the associated issues such as eutrophication and anoxia. Extracting more groundwater from P.E.I. is about so much more than simply water volume issues. The permanent loss of high volumes of water in an already fragile aquifer at a very sensitive time of year will have negative impacts on aquatic animals and plants, including those harvested by humans.
Human health is important, and the high nitrate level found in groundwater in many wells in high potato production areas is a serious concern to the health of Islanders. However, wildlife and natural areas often take a back seat to human needs and health issues. In many jurisdictions fish and wildlife management agencies sit on the sidelines of important water management decisions.
On behalf of the health of our natural systems, including springs, streams, rivers, their riparian zones and estuaries we strongly encourage the P.E.I. Government to adopt a provincial water management plan to effectively integrate water quantity, quality and wildlife management and to maintain the existing moratorium on high-capacity deep water well construction.
Fiep de Bie,
Island Nature Trust,
Board of Directors

The paper printed it in the lower right page under the heading “A Reader’s View” when of course Ms. de Bie is representing the views of the organization.

At first glance, from New Brunswick, this headline sounded at-least-not-bad:

Impact of shale gas development on groundwater to be studied

New Brunswick Energy Institute investing $500K in two-year study, set to begin in April

but then I received this comment from Bradley Walters in New Brunswick, who finds and sends out news about the fracking issue in New Brunswick with another article (blue is his, bold is mine):

Here are more details on the proposed NB study. It sounds like this intends to be little more than an assessment of baseline conditions of well water, with a focus on naturally-occurring methane contamination. In itself, that is not such a bad idea, but it is hard to see what good would come of this given they will presumably not be establishing baseline measurements for the various toxic chemicals actually used in fracking and/or liberated from deep underground as a result of fracking (e.g., heavy metals, radioactive elements, etc.). Also troubling is that this will likely be used to distract us from the many other risks and impacts associated with a shale gas industry (air pollution, habitat damage, surface water pollution, noise pollution, waste water pollution, etc.).  –Brad



Testing Energy institute to spend $500,000 over two years to develop water quality baselines in four areas in southern New Brunswick that are earmarked for possible shale gas development


FREDERICTON – The New Brunswick Energy Institute plans on spending more than $500,000 on research looking at well water quality in areas where industry wants to develop shale gas.

The institute, under fire for being funded by a pro-development Tory provincial government, said Monday the research would go toward establishing a proper baseline before any more wells are drilled.

It will take place in four areas of southern New Brunswick where exploration or development of the controversial industry is underway: Sussex-Petitcodiac, St. Antoine-Shediac, Harcourt-Richibucto and Boisetown-Upper Blackville.

Kerry MacQuarrie, a civil engineering professor at the University of New Brunswick, was selected as the project lead for the two-year study on about 500 private wells.He said it was important to find out the water quality before any further development takes place because sometimes people don’t realize there’s naturally occurring pollution with no human cause.

“This will be totally voluntary and it will be up to the homeowners that we contact whether they want to be involved”MacQuarrie said in an interview. “I would assume that people would be interested to know what the quality is for their drinking water, but there won’t be any obligation for anyone to take part.”

MacQuarrie is well aware of the controversy surrounding the industry and the institute itself. Between opinion polls and the province’s two major political parties, New Brunswick society appears to be split on the merits of shale gas development, which relies on hydraulic fracturing. The long-term consequences of fracking are still not completely understood,with critics,such as the Liberal opposition, saying a moratorium should be in place until more studies can be carried out, whereas the Tory government and other shale gas supporters argue that development, with certain safeguards, should go ahead to create more jobs and wealth.

   “This is a research study, and it’s not really linked to any particular interest group or industry group,” MacQuarrie said. “I have no links with the shale gas industry or anything like that. I’ve been doing ground water research in the province for over 20 years and I publish that in peer-reviewed scientific formats. People probably will take issue that it’s related to the shale gas issue, but I think it’s something worthwhile to do because it seems a lot of the concerns that have been raised are related to ground water quality and the potential impacts on that.”

Stephanie Merrill,freshwater program director with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, works for the environmental organization that has campaigned heavily to stop shale gas development. She welcomed the idea of further study Monday, though she qualified her support by saying she would have to first see a detailed work plan and explanation of the research methods.

She agreed that baseline studies were important, all the more reason, she said, for a moratorium on exploration and development.

“There should be a decision made right now to halt the further work of companies’ with exploration leases and licences while this kind of work is undertaken. That would go a long way in providing an increased level of trust with the public, so they can put aside the question of whether the work is supporting the industry versus having information for providing good solid information for whether the industry should go ahead”

MacQuarrie acknowledged the researchers would have a bit of trouble with their baseline data if the industry continues to develop over the next two years.

“I have no idea to predict what the industry might do in the next couple of years,but I’m guessing it would only be a handful of wells, perhaps, that might be drilled. But again, I have no inside information or any clue about that.”

The team, which will consist of MacQuarrie and as many as eight research students, will send mail-outs or hold meetings to pick about 500 private well owners in the select areas. To ensure their results are not contaminated, they want to establish their baseline using wells that are at least one to two kilometres away from any existing oil or gas wells or seismic tests that have already been conducted. Natural gas is currently extracted at the McCully fields near Sussex and dozens and dozens of different hydrocarbon wells have been drilled since the 19th century,most of them now abandoned.

The researchers want to look at newer private water wells built within the last 20 years when provincial regulations became stricter and data was collected on the wells. They also want sites that are nicely spaced apart with different geology so that they get a better variety and breadth of data. The study will run from April 2014 to April 2016, when a final technical report will be submitted.

The project will be the first large-scale examination of natural methane gas occurrences in private water wells in the province, with the objective to collect and report baseline domestic water quality data. The focus is on groundwater quality parameters that are most relevant to the potential impact on shallow groundwater from unconventional shale gas production.

Early results from the project will be provided in an interim progress report on the institute’s website. It is intended on being the beginning of a series of water studies that the institute will be funding relating to energy development.

MacQuarrie described the work as labour intensive and requiring a good deal of expertise to properly obtain and analyze samples.He said they’d probably work in concert with researchers at Université de Moncton, who have already begun work on collecting data on wells that might be contaminated by radioactive materials caused by deposits such as uranium.

The institute plans on spending $532,000 overall on the study.