Local farmer raises concerns about the importation of biosolids

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Tashi Farmilo

MRC PONTIAC – Robert Boulet, a resident attending the February MRC Pontiac Council of Mayors’ meeting raised concerns about the importation of biosolids for agricultural use. Biosolids are a byproduct of treating wastewater that is then used as fertilizer. The concern is around elevated levels of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) which are a class of substances known as “forever chemicals” because they take a very long time to break down in the environment and, in high enough concentrations, have been linked to a host of serious health problems.

A dedicated farmer and concerned citizen, Boulet believes Council has a responsibility to put a halt to the importation of biosolids, and is not alone in his concerns.

“This issue should have been addressed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment years ago,” said Boulet. “It’s troubling that it took a documentary by Radio-Canada to bring it to light. The public needs to be informed, and we must have access to water tests for PFAS to better understand the situation at hand.” With the spotlight on this important issue, Boulet is hopeful the mayors will take swift action to protect the health and well-being of the community.

Quebec currently allows the import of biosolids from several states, including Maine. However, the state of Maine recently restricted the use of biosolids as fertilizer due to concerns regarding elevated levels of PFAS. The Quebec government has responded by tightening regulations on imported biosolids for the next spreading season.

The Ministry of Environment cited their research monitoring concentrations of PFAs in watercourses as well as in relation to the use of biosolids. They call the compounds “contaminants of emerging concern.” The Ministry has been monitoring these substances in Quebec waters for over ten years, and the maximum concentrations measured so far are below the values currently recommended by Health Canada for drinking water.

In response to the issue, MRC officials said they would look into it and await further word from the Ministry of the Environment. Clarendon Mayor Ed Walsh also invited residents to come and discuss the issue at their next municipal council meeting.

The Council of Mayors passed a resolution in support of MRC Lotbinière, who requested the provincial government halt the importation of biosolids and modify the regulatory framework for their use. The resolution also resolves to “reiterate to the [Environment] Minister the importance of the safe use of biosolids produced in Quebec for rural MRCs so he does not prevent the use of these products regardless of their origin.”