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Port au Choix testing water for herbicide after concerns spread on social media

Port au Choix officials are in the process of testing the town's water supply after a resident's claims sparked concern about contamination on social media this week. (Submitted by Rachel Atkins - image credit)
Port au Choix officials are in the process of testing the town's water supply after a resident's claims sparked concern about contamination on social media this week. (Submitted by Rachel Atkins - image credit)

A Newfoundland town is having its water tested for a common herbicide after fears of contamination spread over social media this week.

Port au Choix's town manager confirmed officials are aware of a social media post that claims a resident sent her blood out for testing after experiencing years of neurological symptoms that included memory loss and balance issues. According to the post, the samples came back positive for glyphosate, a herbicide.

The woman's claims have not been substantiated, and Port au Choix's town manager said Friday nobody else in the Northern Peninsula community, home to nearly 800 people, has come forward to complain of neurological symptoms or concerns about herbicides in the town's water supply. However, the town has decided to test the water to allay fears.

Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in Canada. Health Canada, in a 2017 assessment, noted that glyphosate was unlikely to accumulate in animal tissues and that spray buffer zones are required to ensure it doesn't enter water supplies.

The herbicide has been at the centre of a plea for a renewed investigation into neurological illness in New Brunswick, after a Moncton doctor suspected that a cluster of patients with wide-ranging neurological symptoms had fallen ill due to a single mystery disease, possibly of environmental origin.

A panel later concluded the illnesses were not related.

A statement Friday afternoon from provincial government spokesperson Marium Oishee said the Health and Environment departments are "taking this complaint seriously and … actively investigating the situation."

"As part of its investigation, Health and Community Services has contacted public health officials in the province of New Brunswick, where the neurologist referenced is based, to see if more information can be obtained," says the statement.

"It is important to note that neither the neurologist referenced nor public health officials in the province of New Brunswick contacted our government to flag the issue, and no other similar complaints have been reported."

The province is working with Port au Choix to arrange testing, according to Oishee.

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