Farmers reported federal employees taking water samples without permission
By Diego Flammini
Saskatchewan’s provincial government is asking the federal government for answers after alleged farm trespassing incidents.
Jeremy Cockrill, Saskatchewan’s minister for the Water Security Agency, wrote a letter to federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault seeking an explanation after farmers in Pense, Mossbank and Pilot Butte reported witnessing federal employees taking water samples to test for pesticide residues and nitrate levels without permission to be on the farm.
“These Saskatchewan producers are owned an explanation as to what authority these federal government employees are acting under and why there is no communication with them prior to attendance on their private property,” Cockrill wrote in his Aug. 21 letter.
The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan confirmed to Farms.com it is aware of the situation.
Federal employees do have some authority to conduct these kinds of samples.
Section 48 of the Pest Control Products Act, for example, states an inspector may, “at any reasonable time,” inspect a property where a pest control product is used.
And section 26 of the Canada Water Act allows inspectors onto a property (but not into a house) if the inspector “believes on reasonable grounds” that waste has been added to waters designated as a water quality management area.
The federal environment ministry is looking into at least one incident.
The sampling in Pense occurred last week.
Levi Wood, an area farmer, put out a tweet on Aug. 19 with a photo of a black vehicle with a Government of Canada marking.
“Anyone else see a Government of Canada SUV taking water samples from your dugouts,” he tweeted. “They said they were ‘checking for pesticides.’”
Ministry staff must ensure all work is completed in compliance with proper regulations, a spokesperson said.
Staff “have been collecting samples in water bodies at targeted sites across Canada for Health Canada this year; no nitrates or other nutrients are being sampled as part of these sampling activities,” a ministry statement says. “ECCC is reviewing sampling protocols to ensure they are consistent with area laws before doing any further sampling.