8 September 2016
For immediate release
Bevan-Baker calls for halt to water export project
Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker is calling for a halt to a proposed water bottling project in his district until Islanders can have a full and informed debate on the implications of water exports on PEI.
The business, calling itself “Pure Island Waters”, is proposing to bottle Island water from the Brookvale area and to sell it as a high end product to markets in Canada, the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Officials from the Department of Communities, Land and Environment have determined that the current proposal would have little impact on the environment, though other experts and members of the community have expressed grave concerns.
Pure Island Waters proposes to drill three separate wells on a single property, which individually are not classified as high capacity wells and do not require any permits. However, their total capacity would be well above that threshold. “We need to close these kinds of loopholes,” said Bevan-Baker. “Any company that wants to export water from PEI should be required to get a permit so that they can be properly monitored.” Bevan-Baker also notes that monitoring of extraction permits is currently voluntary, which is problematic.
“The possibility that this business model could be replicated in other locations across the province really concerns me,” continued Bevan-Baker. “Water is a common good and an invaluable resource. When a group of investors is allowed to extract that common resource purely for their own profit, and we have no way to control the overall size of the industry, I think it shows how unprotected Island water currently is.” Bevan-Baker notes that because this is a novel use of Island water, it was never even discussed during the recent Water Act consultations.
This development also raises concerns about uncontrolled development in unincorporated areas. “Given that most communities on PEI have almost no ability to control development, it should be incumbent on the Province to provide ways to empower local residents to have control over the future of their communities.” Bevan-Baker notes that in this case not even the local watershed group was consulted.
Bevan-Baker concludes: “We have to ask ourselves how this project meets the priorities of the local community and the province as a whole.”
This morning the Standing Committee on Community, Land and Environment agreed, at Bevan-Baker’s request, to hold hearings on whether or not we should export bottled water from Prince Edward Island.
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A summary of the Pure Island Waters business plan was submitted to the Department of Communities, Land and Environment for environmental review, where it was screened out. More information can be found on here.
A community meeting was held on Monday, September 5th, in Brookvale to discuss the project. The meeting was organized by residents in the immediate vicinity of the proposed site who received letters advising them that a change of use application had been filed by the proponent. The proponent, and about 50 people from Brookvale and the wider community attended, with MLA Peter Bevan-Baker serving as moderator. An overwhelming majority of those in attendance were opposed to the development, as was determined by a written secret ballot.
Relevant Legislation and Regulations:
In the Environmental Protection Act, bulk water removal is specifically exempted from the definition of “undertaking”, and thus exempt from the usual Environmental Impact Assessment process under section 9. It is covered instead under section 12.1, which states that water exports are only allowed if done in containers under 25L.
Section 7 of the Water Well Regulations outlines the requirements for Groundwater Extraction Permits. The Pure Island Waters proposal does not meet the minimum extraction rate of 4 L/s, and thus does not require a permit.
Section 29 of the Subdivision and Development Regulations (under the Planning Act), requires the developer to submit a Change of Use application and also allows for the Minister to consider feedback from nearby residents. According to the Department, two residents within 100m of the proposed development were contacted. Section 11 of these regulations allow the Minister to hold a public meeting on any development.