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Use of biosolids discussed at MRC Pontiac council

Use of biosolids discussed at MRC Pontiac council

17 February 2023 à 2:09 pm

At the MRC Pontiac council of mayors meeting last night (February 15), a resident of Clarendon spoke during the public question period about the the importation of biosolids for agricultural use, referring to reporting done by Radio-Canada late last year. In December, Quebec’s Environment Minister Benoit Charette said that new regulations on the product, which is used as fertilizer, would be coming shortly.

Biosolids are a byproduct of treating wastewater that’s commonly recovered and used as fertilizer, and otherwise landfilled or incinerated. The state of Maine in the U.S. recently restricted the use of biosolids as fertilizer due to concerns regarding elevated levels of PFAS, which are a class of substance 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. PFAS are a broad range of chemicals that are commonly used for their waterproofing or stain resistant properties and are found in everything from cosmetics and food packaging to non-stick cookware.

As the Radio-Canada reports note, Quebec currently allows imports of biosolids from several states, including Maine.

Quebec’s Environment Ministry responded with a statement on the issue, citing their research over the years monitoring the concentrations of PFAs in watercourses as well as in relation to the use of biosolids. They call the compounds “contaminants of emerging concern.”

“For more than ten years, the [Ministry] has been monitoring these substances in Quebec waters,” the report states (translated). “The maximum concentrations measured so far are below the values currently recommended by Health Canada for drinking water. The [Ministry] uses this information in particular as indicators of the level of risk of presence in Quebec. The data available to date support the portrait of a reality different from that portrayed in the [Radio-Canada] reports.”

The ministry also states that they will be tightening the regulations on biosolids imported from outside the country for the next spreading season.

“… successive U.S. governments have implemented several measures to reduce PFAS releases at the source, so that the biosolids generated today in Maine are unlikely to contaminate agricultural land,” the report states (translated). “Nevertheless, the background concentrations in Maine could be higher than in Quebec. This is why Quebec wants to be cautious about the spreading of biosolids from outside the country on agricultural land in its territory and will tighten their conditions of use for the next spreading period. At the same time, Quebec will continue to work with its federal and provincial partners to increase border controls on biosolids imports and, if necessary, establish national quality standards for the PFAS content of recoverable biosolids in Quebec.”

In response to the questions, MRC officials said that they would be looking into the issue, and awaiting further word from the Ministry of the Environment. MRC Territory Director Jason Durand said that he expected more information to become available in the coming weeks.

Clarendon Mayor Ed Walsh also invited the resident to come and discuss the issue at their next municipal council meeting. The council of mayors also passed a resolution in support of MRC Lotbinière, who requested that 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 that he does not prevent the use of these products regardless of their origin.”

The meeting was recorded and can be watched here (the discussion of biosolids is from 30:00 to 39:10).