Bad decision by PEI Government to approve Aquabounty’s Deep Water well request for Rollo Bay - our groundwater is at risk!

Media Release
Friday, April 12, 2019 - 12:59

Charlottetown - The Council of Canadians is expressing deep concern that the PEI government has approved Aquabounty’s application to expand its PEI operations in to Rollo Bay.

Leo Broderick with the Council of Canadians says, “The PEI Government should never have approved this application. The proposal from Aquabounty is an environmental disaster for the people and environment of Rollo Bay West. Aquabounty’s request for undisclosed amounts of ground water from high capacity deep water wells means bad news for residents And their plan to allow its wastewater to flow into local stream and then on into to Rollo Bay is unacceptable.”

At their Bay Fortune factory, AquaBounty uses ground water at the daily rate about more than half of the City of Charlottetown.

Broderick adds, “Aquabounty says in its request to the Province ‘it needs to find a new location in its expansion plans as there may not be enough ground water at its site at Bay Fortune.’

We had hoped that this was an alert to the PEI Government on the impact of deep water wells and that it was time to say NO to this kind of corporate exploitation of PEI’s groundwater – our only source of drinking water.

But it seems it is business as usual.”

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Below are our comments to Dale Thompson, PEI Department of Communications, Land and Environment

We have reviewed the Environmental Impact Statement as prepared by Josse Environmental Project No.JEO156 re AquaBounty’s proposal to acquire the Snow Island’s Atlantic Sea Smolt Ltd (ASSL) Facility. And we respectfully disagree with the report’s conclusion that the potential environmental effects of the proposed project would not be significant during the operation of the proposed facility. As well, we disagree with its recommendation that the proposed project should proceed as described and as outlined in its report.

Our concerns are as follows:

1. We have monitored the Aqua Bounty site at Bay Fortune for many years and have found a tremendous abuse of our ground water. That site unleashes millions of liters of water a day into a nearby ditch - 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Often we find great deposits of waste from the GM salmon factory deposited in the ditch (see attached photo). This waste water flows into nearby Bay Fortune. In the proposal for the new site, the report mentions that AquaBounty will need more than the presently approved extraction permit of 6,251 liters of water per minute which comes from 4 high capacity deep water wells, one artesian well, and one domestic well. The review doesn’t say what the amount is. It certainly should, given the present controversy around high capacity deep water wells and the impact on people and the environment. This will have a significant impact on present water table levels in the area. Neighbours access to drinking water will be affected. We find this aspect of the request deplorable and unacceptable.

2. We are not convinced that GM salmon will not end up at the new Rollo Bay site and we have concerns that the issue of salmon eggs or salmon escaping are not addressed adequately in this document. As well, on page 17 of the report it states, “The eggs produced at the subject site would be transferred as green eggs (not fertilized) to the AquaBounty Bay Fortune facility where fertilization and incubation would take place. Eyed eggs from conventional Atlantic salmon crosses established as part of our breeding program would be transferred back to Rollo Bay West facility to propagate the next generations”. Our question is are the eyed eggs already GM eggs, and if not, there is a huge possibility mistakes can be made transporting “eggs” back and forth between facilities. Also transporting eggs between facilities creates opportunities for eggs to be released into the wild.

3. The system proposed around wastewater management leaves much to be desired and should never be approved. We know based on our experience with Aqua Bounty at Bay Fortune that how it handles wastewater is a problem. In the final analysis, the wastewater, though filtered, will eventually flow into the stream on the property and on into Rollo Bay, adjacent to Bay Fortune, and then out into Northumberland Strait. This is an outdated approach and should be illegal. In this part of PEI, the area's ground water and its fishing waters are already under a great deal of stress due to high levels of nitrates and pesticides from industrial agriculture.

4. If approval is given to this facility we believe this creates an opportunity for AquaBounty to turn it into a GM production facility sometime in the future. We are having difficulty understanding why Aqua Bounty needs 13,000 non-GM salmon growing in a nearby facility. The EIS does not address this concern clearly enough.

5. Given that climate change is a reality, we are concerned that Aqua Bounty is proposing to rely on oil as its source of energy. There are so many other renewable energy options that we suggest that this is another reason to reject this proposal.

6. Regarding Table 1-2, we find it difficult to understand that the adjacent and surrounding land is described as ‘undeveloped land used for agricultural purposes’ when clearly (see photo attached) the land is developed as farm land.- mostly for industrial agriculture. It is true there is still a little forest near the stream but not much (see attached photos). As indicated earlier, this area’s drinking water is under stress from industrial agricultural inputs. Giving approval to AquaBounty to set up shop in Rollo Bay West will add further stress to an already fragile environment.

7. We also point out that AquaBounty has a disastrous environmental record. AquaBounty has had a disease outbreak, an accident that led to lost salmon, and was fined US$9,500 when Panamanian regulators found AquaBounty in breach of environmental laws.

8. Today for any kind of fish farming proposals, responsible governments are pushing companies to move to a closed containment facility which can reduce the environmental impacts. The present Bay Fortune site must be made to conform to a closed containment system. Pesticides, excess feed, antibiotics and fish wastes are polluting the local aquatic environment. It will be irresponsible to allow AquaBounty to repeat this environmental mess in Rollo Bay West.

For these reasons, the Council of Canadians is asking that the PEI Environment Department reject the application from AquaBounty Canada to expand its production on PEI. We also ask that you hold in the very near future meaningful public consultations on AquaBounty’s request.

Leo Broderick 
Council of Canadians (PEI Chapter)