Concerns surrounding groundwater contamination by a fertilizer plant in Yorkton, Saskatchewan

Petition: 465

Issue(s): Corporate social responsibility; Environmental assessment; Human/environmental health; Pesticides; Toxic substances

Petitioner(s): A Canadian resident

Petitioner location(s): Yorkton, Saskatchewan

Date received: 17 February 2022

Status: Completed - Response(s) to petition received

Summary: The petition outlines concerns surrounding a fertilizer plant that is contaminating groundwater in Wallace, a rural municipality outside of Yorkton, Saskatchewan. According to the petition, the fertilizer plant, which is operated by Nutrien and located on land owned by Imperial Oil, is contaminating the Yorkton Creek and adjacent properties. The petition asserts that the contamination exceeds criteria for supporting aquatic life, has a negative impact on the property values of adjoining properties, and compromises groundwater as a reliable drinking-water source for residents of Yorkton.

The petition highlights that groundwater sampling took place twice a year since the early 2000s, with the most recent sampling occurring in October 2019. However, the petition asserts that samplings are no longer required, according to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment. The petition suggests that the amount and spread of the contamination are documented in more than 10 years’ worth of environmental studies. It also outlines that several studies indicated that nitrate levels were more than hundreds of times higher than allowed. The petition refers to a briefing note for the provincial minister that outlines that the 2005 fertilizer parameters in the groundwater “exceeded the criteria for drinking water and protection of aquatic life” and that Imperial Oil was aware of the contamination of adjacent properties and failed to notify the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment or adjacent property owners.

The petition questions whether responsible departments will require Imperial Oil to resume regular groundwater sampling, consider requiring the fertilizer plant to cease operations, collaborate with provincial ministries to investigate the contamination throughout the Prairies, and investigate suspected violations of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 and the pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act. The petition states that this is to ensure that groundwater, the creek, aquifers, aquatic life, and adjacent landowners are not harmed.

Federal departments/organizations responsible for reply: Environment and Climate Change Canada; Fisheries and Oceans Canada