Astronomers go bananas when they discover a planet that has evidence of water, because they then know that life is possible on that orb. With water life is possible: without water, the possibilities are severely limited.

With this in mind, I was both surprised and horrified when I recently learned of a proposal that involved removing water from our Island aquifer and selling it abroad. Let’s put aside for a moment all the persuasive arguments why bottled water in and of itself is a terrible idea (use of oil, carbon footprint, plastic waste, health concerns, shipping something really heavy across the planet that is available locally, etc. etc.) and focus on what this might mean to Islanders and the water upon which our lives, our economy, and all living things with which we share this beautiful place depend.

As the proposal has been presented, it falls within all the regulatory requirements, and has thus far been given tacit government approval. The company’s plan is to drill three wells, each with a MINIMUM capacity of 40 gallons per minute on this single property. But because the rate of removal of each individual well is less than 50 gallons a minute, no extraction permits are required. This is a glaring leak (pardon the pun) in provincial legislation that must be fixed. And further, because this project falls under water extraction, there is no mechanism in the Environmental Protection Act for the public to trigger a review. Anybody anywhere on PEI could set up a bottling facility in their basement and sell “Pure Island Water” (the trade name of the said company) to anyone who will buy it. And we’re not talking lemonade stand nickels and dimes here. The project as proposed would mean that Pure Island Water could extract – free of charge – water of retail value in the tens of millions of dollars per year. Their stated markets include China and Japan, where they hope that PEI’s reputation for pristine water will mean that they have a “premium product” (their words) to sell to thirsty (and affluent) foreigners. Having said that, they are being careful to drill down much deeper than most domestic wells, way down to the ancient, so-called fossil water, to ensure that the water they extract is not contaminated with nitrates. What was that about pristine Island water?

Immediate neighbours of the proposed facility are concerned about the impact on their own wells and local watershed, not to mention a new factory in their currently peaceful rural district. It is yet one more example of the vulnerability of unincorporated rural areas to development that might not be compatible with surrounding land uses, and certainly not compatible with the will of the neighbourhood. (A poll of residents at a community meeting on Monday evening revealed almost complete disapproval of the project from the almost 50 people present.) There was an opportunity here for the proponents to proactively engage the community and work together, sharing information and addressing concerns, but instead it was as if they tried to slip this by unnoticed. This is exactly how NOT to create good-will and community buy-in.

But the implications of this proposal are Island-wide. With the drafting of a water act well under way, all Islanders should be deeply concerned about the precedent giving a license to such a facility provides for future entrepreneurs looking to extract our pristine Island waters and turn the sensitive resource into a big chunk of cash. It is the first step in a new direction that commodifies an invaluable public good. There is no province-wide upper limit on how much can be exploited by keen business-people eager to squeeze out every available drop of pure Island waters. We need to get the rules right before we consider this, otherwise it will be extremely difficult, not to mention expensive to turn off the tap and shut down an existing industry. The granting of a license must be delayed until the water act is in place, and any new protections contained within it brought into force.

On PEI we rely entirely on groundwater, and unlike many other places, we don’t have a lot of wiggle room should something interfere with our supply. In an age of heightened environmental awareness and acceptance of climate change, many places are banning the use of bottled water and its extraction for that use from groundwater. Why on Earth at this time is PEI getting into this dubious business? And one more fundamental question – is this in the public interest?

With other uses of water, there is an apparent benefit, and a natural limit to how much is needed and taken: just enough to keep golf course greens green; only what is required to maintain crop health; sufficient to create a base of snow for the ski hill, for example. But with water extraction for export, no self-imposed limits exist: greed knows no bounds. And therein lies the real peril of this. PEI’s water is vulnerable and unprotected, and business doctrines celebrate and promote growth and profiteering. It is a dangerous combination, and there may not be much time to act before our children’s future is bottled and shipped off in shiny plastic bottles, 80% of which will end up – perhaps like our Island itself – tossed away thoughtlessly.

-Peter

For more on this issue, see our press release: Bevan-Baker calls for halt to water export project.

 

21 Comments

  1. Bill Kays 9 September 2016 at 2:02 pm

    Only a corrupted government would permit this to happen. This is your globalism in action. Don’tt you just love it. Right now we still have control over our water, but the TPIP and TPP will sign away those rights to unelected international globalists. Put a stop to this right away. Show me where the first truck is ready to roll out and I will personally stand in front of it. It would look good on them if they tried to arrest a bunch of seniors.

     
  2. Jeana 9 September 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Hi Peter,
    What will be the next step for concerned Isalnders?
    Thank you
    Jeana MacIsaac

     
  3. Pops 9 September 2016 at 5:48 pm

    How would they allow this to happen? They won’t allow Deep water wells but will approve this? At least the deep water wells leave the water going back into the land.

     
  4. concerned 9 September 2016 at 7:44 pm

    Exporting water is a colossaly terrible idea, just horrible.

     
  5. Jean Fleming 10 September 2016 at 8:16 am

    This is very disturbing, The Council of Canadians might be able to give some support and advice if this has not happened already.

     
  6. Marie 10 September 2016 at 8:49 am

    The impact of this plant will be negative, far reaching reaching, and irreversible. Surrounding land values will plummet and the community will always be known as the first Island community to sell our previous resource. Brookvake will be infamous

     
  7. Marie 10 September 2016 at 8:50 am

    The impact of this plant will be negative, far reaching , and irreversible. Surrounding land values will plummet and the community will always be known as the first Island community to sell our precious resource. Brookvake will be infamous

     
  8. Nicole 10 September 2016 at 12:49 pm

    How might we get involved? What can we do to help put a stop to this?

     
    • admin 20 September 2016 at 12:59 pm

      Hi Nicole. There is now a petition being circulated on this. If you’d like to help gather signatures, send me an email at plleveque@assembly.pe.ca.

      Patrick

       
  9. Charlene Belsher 10 September 2016 at 10:13 pm

    Three points:
    1.To me, drilling three wells sounds like a shady way to get around approval for a high capacity well.
    2. There is little economic benefit to PEI. Maybe a few jobs and a one time fee to drill the wells. The investors will make big bucks on the Islands reputation for pristine water.
    3. For a visual effect, imagine a business that proposes selling a cubic foot of Island land, cutting it away and shipping it to the US, Europe and Asia. Does that help illustrate the impact of this business plan?

    Please keep me informed and let me know what can be done to help you stop this.

     
    • admin 20 September 2016 at 12:58 pm

      Hi Charlene. There is now a petition being circulated on this. If you’d like to help gather signatures, send me an email at plleveque@assembly.pe.ca.

      Patrick

       
  10. Robert Butler 11 September 2016 at 7:03 am

    This is a very worrying proposal. Thanks for the well thought out review of the issue and the aspects that should concern all on our little island,

     
  11. Brian Clark 11 September 2016 at 8:09 am

    Lets put a stop to this right now! What can we do to help?

     
    • admin 20 September 2016 at 1:00 pm

      Hi Brian. There is now a petition being circulated on this. If you’d like to help gather signatures, send me an email at plleveque@assembly.pe.ca.

      Patrick

       
  12. david weale 11 September 2016 at 6:21 pm

    You are right…this has to ne stopped right now, before the big corporate foot gets in the door and someone like Nestle or Coke gets in…because once they are in we can’t control them…as has been the case with Irvings….and btw, the chap spearheading this project has close family ties – business-wise – to the Premier’s family….that’s right…same old, same old…D

     
  13. Jason McNally 12 September 2016 at 8:21 am

    So let’s do the math, to see just how much of our ground water would be bottled up and sold. Keep in mind this is just the proposal to get in the door, as we see in cases all over the world once they get going these numbers will change dramatically.
    120 gallons a minute, 60 minutes an hour and 24 hours a day = 172,800 gallons a day. 3.79 liters in a gallon = 654,912 liters a day. 365 days in a year = 239,042,880 liters a year. Almost 240 million liters of our water gone every year benifing only this company’s shareholders.
    Are you willing to give up your water so their shareholders can add some zero’s to their bank accounts?
    So what happens when big corporations own all the food, water and medicine?
    Shouldn’t these be the issues in which elections are won and lost?

     
  14. C. Foy 12 September 2016 at 1:02 pm

    What can we do to help. I think it is a problem someone just said okay to and never thought of the consequences. We are having a problem keeping good water on our tables now without shipping what there is to be sold elsewhere. Think someone is sleeping on the job and better wake up. I don’t give a DD who wants to bottle the water , it should not be allowed, ever on PEI.

     
  15. Becky mccue 12 September 2016 at 8:49 pm

    Thank you peter,,,,and every one out there who’s trying to stop this act of evil from happening,,,,,,we need to protect our island in Jesus name and by his precious blood this will not happen,AMEN

     
  16. Pops 14 September 2016 at 1:21 pm
     
  17. Robot Gizz 14 September 2016 at 5:44 pm

    I am amazed that someone hasn’t done this before now.It makes perfect sense(money wise) Trouble is that doesn’t make it the RIGHT thing to do.We should thank these folks for bringing this subject to the surface while we still have time to address and deal with it.Other areas of the world have not faired off so lucky.Island Pure would not be alone in the shipping of island water abroad (what do you think BEER is made from) The fine people of the island brewing company didn’t pick the building they have by mistake!! I think ADL has been known to have bottled a few things over the years too!
    The point is NOW IS the time to set limits/standards and draft laws that protect this resource that we ALL need from the greedy FEW that would treat it like the latest phone or gadget to make money from.

     
  18. Whole Picture 20 September 2016 at 11:55 am

    Jason, just because that might be the capacity of their machines to take that amount, or work 24 hours a day. This plant production will be 5000 cubic meters a year, which doesn’t even touch other industries such as cruise ships, golf courses, potato and alcohol production. This plant will be taking only 0.00025% of the recharge rate of island water. Let’s not just be selective and take a stance against one company. That would mean assessing it as a whole and having similar crack downs for other industries to make this justified.

     

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