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P.E.I. commission urging water well tests


July 15, 2008
By The Canadian Press

Topics

July 15, 2008, Charlottetown,
P.E.I. – A commission that spent a year looking into nitrate
contamination in Prince Edward Island recently released a report that
says the provincial government should offer free, annual well-water
testing to the entire province.

July 15, 2008, Charlottetown, P.E.I. – A commission that spent a year looking into nitrate contamination in Prince Edward Island recently released a report that says the provincial government should offer free, annual well-water testing to the entire province.

The proposed testing program is one of six “essential” recommendations to deal with a growing problem, which has seen nitrate levels rise over the past 30 years – both in the Island’s groundwater and its rivers.

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The contamination stems mainly from intensive potato farming and housing development, with most of the nitrates coming from agricultural fertilizers, septic systems and fertilizers applied to lawns and golf courses.

From a total of 2,511 water samples taken from across the province, the commission determined that six per cent of private wells showed contamination above acceptable guidelines, and another 11 per cent at the high end of the scale.

The chairman of the commission, Armand DesRoches, noted that the province has been repeatedly warned about the problem for more than 10 years.

In the report, the former chief justice of the P.E.I. Supreme Court cited a passage from a 2007 report prepared by the Environmental Advisory Council.

“If government waits another 10 years, no amount of funding will fix the problem; it will be too late.”

The five-member commission recommended creation of a public database on the Internet to provide information on nitrate levels in wells in each watershed.

As well, the commission called for upgraded municipal sewage systems and a mandatory, province-wide order that would force farmers to rotate their crops at least once every three years.

Other recommendations included encouraging the government to:

  • Provide financial incentives to get producers to adopt a nutrient management program.
  • Make a nutrient management program mandatory in high nitrate areas.
  • Offer new programs to encourage the removal of agricultural land from potato production in a way that does not harm producers.
  • Ban the application of manure and other organic matter when there is no active plant growth to take up nutrients.
  • Increase financial incentives for manure storage facilities.
  • Continue to support organic farming and new high-value crops that require less fertilizer.