by BETTER FARMING STAFF
The Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE) is investigating following the June 5 release of the soil fumigant Chloropicrim into the air from two ginseng fields east of Delhi. Area residents from 25 nearby homes were evacuated Tuesday evening and allowed to return home Wednesday. Two police officers, five fire fighters and four area residents were treated at Norfolk General Hospital in Simcoe.
Kate Jordan, a spokesperson for the MOE, said their investigation will look into whether procedures were followed and determine whether any charges will be laid. In the meantime, she said, they rely on compliance of regulations for the safe application of chemicals.
Ken Van Torre, chair of the Ontario Ginseng Growers’ Association, said he could not comment directly on Tuesday’s event. Van Torre said the fumigant Chloropicrim has been used for years to control nematodes in tobacco, raspberries, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes but was just approved for ginseng last year.
“Fumigant is injected (into the ground) prior to planting,” he said, “and used to kill nematodes and soil-borne diseases.” He added that the majority of ginseng ground that is fumigated is done through custom application. “Not too many growers do their own,” he said.
In a news release, the Norfolk County detachment of the OPP said its investigation revealed that the soil fumigant was released into the air from the ground “as a result of weather conditions.”
Chloropicrim was approved for use in ginseng and other root crops just last year by the Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA). In addition to being toxic to insects, it is a powerful tear gas, extremely irritating to the lungs, eyes and skin. BF