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 9th, 2014

This one raises an issue about radon, but has anyone actually heard about his concern?  Perhaps we all need to start asking about it.

Deep-water wells will spray radon into air
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on March 06, 2014

A readerʼs view
P.E.I. groundwater contains radon as a dissolved gas. Have the deep-water wells in Prince and Queens counties received a radiological assessment? For I believe there are meteorological and health consequences to their operation. Specifically, what are the activities of radon, 86Rn222, in these wells? How does it compare with shallow water wells? What is the airborne maximum permissible concentration (MPC) of radon on P.E.I.?
If you irrigate with P.E.I. groundwater by spraying, in the flight of the water droplets through the air, radon will evaporate out of the water droplet, effectively what is called an air stripper; now a radon stripper. Some radon evaporates (stripped out), some doesnʼt. The radon stripper effect will form a radioactive radon gas cloud, a radon plumb. The radioactive half-life of 86Rn222 is 3.8 days, and a significant concentration of radon may occur near the spraying source in light winds as well as down wind.
When radon decays it emits an alpha particle of 5.5 million electron volts, very energetic.
Electrons are stripped off diatomic oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the air and it takes about 30 electron volts to create one ion pair. This is referred to as ionization or ionizing radiation. Do the math: divide 5.5 million by 30 and you
get ~183,000 ion pairs from one alpha particle.
There is a background level of ionization in the atmosphere caused by cosmic rays and background radiation. Airborne irrigation will add to this considerably; so much so that the resistance of the earth atmosphere is decreased, the electrical field of the earth arcs over, and you have thunder and lightning.
Last summer I heard thunder over Hunter River or Cavendish and there wasnʼt talk of any electrical disturbances on the newscast nor were the clouds thunderheads. I believe now this thunder most likely was caused by the deep-water wells spraying radon in the air in Prince and Queens counties of P.E.I. Friends say: “I heard that too.”
Health Canada should also look into the health consequences of the deep water wells.
As a public health matter, it will also prove useful to know the MPC of radon for groundwater, as municipal wells are also involved, at least indirectly.
Tony Lloyd,
Mount Stewart


And a bit on the Lands Protection Act review:
from the Commissioner’s Report, page 21, with my inserts and deletions: 

Questions Regarding the Strategies (those documents cited a few days ago that looked at farming issues and the future):
The 1,000 and 3,000 acre limits were by far the dominant issue in public meetings held by the Commission.  Calls for increasing the limits came mainly from the potato industry, through the Federation of Agriculture and the Potato Board. Not all farmers and not all agricultural organizations    called for increasing the limits however.  The National Farmers Union opposes any change to the Lands Protection Act and Regulations.   Among non-farm groups and individuals, the vast majority favoured the status quo.

Two other points of view were expressed:
1. There still needs to be a limit on how much land a person or a corporation can own and control; and
2. The door should be left open for someday lowering the aggregate land holding limits.

Bearing all this in mind, the question must therefore be asked: If none of the provincial    and    industry    strategies mentioned above calls for increasing farm size as a way to improve farm profitability, enhance rural development, strengthen tourism, or promote environmental sustainability, on what basis can increasing the aggregate land holding limits be justified?

In this regard, the Commission sought answers to the following questions:
1. What is the relationship between potato acreage and profitability for a potato farm?
2. What is the evidence that the present aggregate land holding limits are having a negative impact on the profitability of individual potato farms?
3. If further consolidation occurs in the potato sector, what impact will this have on employment and contribution to provincial Gross Domestic Product?
4. If further consolidation occurs in the potato sector, what impact will this have on rural communities?
5. How does the Agricultural Crop Rotation Act fit into the picture? To what extent is it being enforced? In other words, how many potato producers are in full compliance?
6.    Given current aggregate land holding limits under the Lands Protection Act, has the Agricultural Crop Rotation Act become a deterrent to future growth of the potato sector?
7. Should the Agricultural Crop Rotation Act be changed, or can ways be found to use it, in combination with the Lands Protection    Act    and    government programs, to encourage better land management practices?
8.    What is the impact of the ‘double- counting’ provision that requires landowners to include both land leased in and land leased out as part of their aggregate land holdings? What would be the benefit, if any, of removing the requirement to count land leased out?
9. What are the problems with the Environmental Exemption Regulations introduced in 2009 as they are currently written and enforced? Can they be changed to better reflect the needs of the agriculture industry, or should they be abolished?
So onto the what he actually recommended next.

March 1st, 2014

From the very impressive front page article in yesterday’s Guardian:

Headline:“We can’t afford the risk of being wrong.”

Caption: “Front, from left, Boyd Allen, Catherine O’Brien, and Don Mazer of the Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Water make a case against lifting the moratorium on deep-well irrigation to a provincial standing committee Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014.”  Guardian photo by Heather Taweel, I think, who was allowed to take photos (unlike the mere spectators).  The rest of you know who you are, including the couple of P.E.I. Potato Board people in the back row  😉

And the articulate Rob MacLean, son of former Premier Angus MacLean, closes the front section in Friday’s Guardian:

Government must build trust on deep-water well issue
Record on complying with regulation is not good if one considers the Crop Rotation Act
Letter of the Day

Before we discuss deep-water wells, we need to face our record on the Crop Rotation Act.
Thatʼs the 2002 law which mandates a three-year crop rotation in potatoes. This is our history, itʼs where promises meet performance and the record is not good.
About a quarter of potato operations are in violation of the act. This is a big reason people donʼt trust government to regulate the industry. It didnʼt have to be this way.
Imagine what the public atmosphere would be like if, instead of only 75 per cent of potato operations complying with the act, we were close to 100 per cent compliance. What if, instead of our soil organic matter getting worse province-wide, it was holding steady or even improving? What if the potato industry could point to those accomplishments? What if the government could say, “You can trust us to regulate wells because of how well weʼve regulated crop rotations?”
If that was the situation, people would still be cautious, they would still want to proceed slowly, if at all, but they would also appreciate farmersʼ efforts to take care of the soil and they would be more inclined to believe governmentʼs assurances.
As it is, the two camps on this question have very little basis for trust. Comprehensive science is only part of the solution. There was a time when science told us there were plenty of cod in the sea and plenty of big trees on the land. The scientists were right, but we mismanaged those stocks and now theyʼre gone.
Regardless of how much water is under our feet, it will be possible to ruin that resource too. Whatever policy we arrive at regarding deep-water wells will have impressive language around regulation, but those words will be empty if we canʼt trust the regulator to enforce them.
Itʼs up to government to build trust, and what they need to do is take strong action on the Crop Rotation Act. Until they do, the old saying applies, “fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
Rob MacLean,


Happy March!

I have been meaning to dig up and go through Horace Carver’s Report of the Commission on the Lands Protection Act, especially since at the end of March, Mr. Carver is speaking to the March 27th Thursday meeting of the very same Standing Committee of Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry; and I think there may be legislation in the spring sitting of the Legislature, which begins in April.  There are 29 recommendations, so with some background and perhaps a day off for reader-fatigue, let’s march ahead.

To recap (and my errors are my own), Horace Carver is a Charlottetown lawyer, background here:
who was a Conservative MLA from 1978 to 1986, during which time Alex Campbell, Bennett Campbell, Angus MacLean, and James Lea were Premier.

He represented PEI in the Constitutional talks in 1981.  He fought for the right for PEI not to be guided under property rights guaranteed at the federal level and have the right to a provincial Lands Protection Act, and worked drafting the first LPA in the 1980s.

Carver was appointed in November 2012, when Plan B was just getting cleared and bulldozed, and in early 2013 started consultations.  He set the bar high as far as reaching out, appearing in the media often and having several public events, and then basically doing a whistle-stop tour of the Island (if we wistfully still had trains), making sure to reschedule meetings due to bad weather, and have lots of info on the website.

The sessions, as you may remember, were long and he pretty much let people talk.  Then he scooped up all his papers in May and his small staff and wrote his report, submitting it a day before the deadline in late June.  It languished a bit (out of his hands) and was finally released in late Fall.

OK, more tomorrow on it.