Comment 40923

By Gwyn Livingstone (anonymous) | Posted May 20, 2010 at 03:17:29

Forgive the detour, but now that I've started wondering about the cactus lands I can't stop. In addition to the troubles possibly resulting from the fertilizer used by the 10 or 20 Veldhuis greenhouses (nitrogen and phosphorus pollution and resulting eutrophocation and/or groundwater contamination), you have the unpleasant business of Cold War-era pesticides.

Many of these kind of semi-volatile chemicals (eg. DDT, toxaphene, chlordane, hexachlorobenzene, dieldrin, mirex) weren't banned until the mid 1980s and are known as "Persistent Organic Pollutants" since they bioaccumulate in the food chain, which in this case is readily available since the site borders fields, ponds and wetlands.

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants counts the above pesticides as nine of the worst POPs ever created and ascribes four qualities to them: They are highly toxic; they are persistent, lasting for years or even decades before degrading into less dangerous forms; they evaporate and travel long distances through the air and through water; and they accumulate in fatty tissue. Does anyone care to venture a guess as to how may of these may have been in use at the greenhouses over their 40-year lifespan? We've seen what happened when a blatant pesticide spill hit Spencer Creek in 2007, but what about the possibility of a spill into the Desjardins Canal... quietly taking place over the course of decades?

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