Quebec imposes a temporary moratorium on land application of biosolids from the United States
At least five American states export biosolids intended for the Quebec agricultural community.
The Legault government is now imposing a moratorium, out of “prudence”, on the use of American biosolids, until it reviews its own regulations. It thus ensures that Quebec soils are not contaminated by products from outside the country in anticipation of the next agricultural season.
It is a promise that formulated the Ministers of the Environment and Agriculture the day after the broadcast of a report from the program Enquête, last December. Radio-Canada revealed that at least five American states export such sewage sludge to Quebec.
South of the border, Maine has already banned this practice as a preventive measure. Tests carried out have revealed significant concentrations of PFAS, potentially carcinogenic eternal contaminants, on agricultural land in this American state.
At present, Quebec regulations do not regulate not PFAS, unlike other hazardous materials like lead, nickel, cadmium and arsenic.
The government's objective is to prohibit the use in all forms of municipal, industrial or paper sewage sludge from outside Canada.
Since the release of the Radio-Canada reports, Quebec announced the overhaul of the regulations governing the use of biosolids. The government has launched a 45-day consultation that will lead to the adoption of amendments to the Agricultural Operations Regulations.
But the adoption of this regulation could only take place at the end of spring, when the first seeds will have already been carried out.
In the meantime, to avoid contamination Quebec soils, Minister Benoit Charette has therefore decided to impose a moratorium.
The measure announced by Quebec in a press release is welcomed by the president of the Order of Agronomists of Quebec, Martine Giguère. We were in favor of a moratorium until thresholds were developed. This is what the ministry is currently working on, she explains.
In the draft regulation that is the subject of consultation, we can read that the new ban […] could have an impact on importing companies which will have to find other markets.
We do not wish to react to this for the moment, indicated the company Englobe, which imports American biosolids.
More than forty Quebec municipalities have adopted resolutions to stop the import of American biosolids and have expressed fears about the use of Quebec sludge.
Tests carried out in a laboratory at the University of Montreal have shown that some Quebec sludge can be as or even more concentrated in PFAS than the old thresholds in force in Maine, before they were banned.
If not recovered in agricultural fields, municipal sewage sludge must then be buried or burned, which generates greenhouse gases. The president of the Order of Agronomists believes that the recovery of fertilizing residual materials has several advantages both from an agronomic point of view and from the fight against climate change.
In its press release, the Minister Charette added that this was an effective avenue to pursue in the fight against climate change.
Since the reports of La Semaine environment and Investigation, the Ministère de l'Environnement set up a committee made up of some forty partners from municipal, agricultural and industrial sectors, professional , ministries and specialized companies as well as scientists.