Irrigation holding ponds pose concern for some P.E.I. residents

·2 min read

Morgan Oatway is a lifelong Islander who recently moved into onto a scenic 10 acres near her parents on the Drummond Road in Freetown.

When a large, open pit appeared in a neighbour’s front yard, Oatway took notice and posted a photo to social media.

The pit is an irrigation holding pond and did not belong to the neighbour, who will see it in their front yard every day.

“(It’s) right in front of a man’s home. You could basically throw a stone from the front porch and land it in this holding pond,” said Oatway. “It’s right along the road, it’s an eyesore in a beautiful area.”

To make a holding pond, an earthen basin is constructed and lined with clay or plastic. It’s then filled with groundwater pumped by one or more wells. Some holding ponds are filled with surface water from local streams.

Until the Water Act is proclaimed in legislature, scheduled for June 16, there are no regulations in place to specifically monitor the ponds.

Oatway is troubled by the trend.

Catherine O’Brien of the Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Water said the holding ponds are in a “legal desert”.

“The coalition is extremely concerned; this has been an ongoing issue since 2017,” said O’Brien.

O’Brien said she’s heard there are more than 60 holding ponds on P.E.I.

She said she feels the government has “flip-flopped” on its July vote to place a moratorium on holding ponds.

Environment Minister Myers said he has a solid team in place now to handle any concerns, and enough staff to enforce the Act once it is proclaimed

“We have a whole group that takes care of water now and always has,” said Myers. “And really, to be honest with you, if a holding pond was depleting a watershed now, we would still be able to shut them down using our current abilities here.”

Once the act is proclaimed, all new ponds will need to comply and any existing ponds will have five years to come into compliance, said Myers.

“They’ll have to be permitted; probably not fed by multiple wells and we’ll have to make sure there’s enough water capacity in that particular watershed to accommodate them,” said the Minister.

Alison Jenkins, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Journal-Pioneer