I am Dr. John Toussaint, Veterinarian by profession. I obtained my Doctor in Veterinary Medicine Degree from Cuba in 1985 with honors and Master of Science Degree from Tuskegee, Alabama, USA, specialized in Tropical Animal Medicine/Epidemiology in 1992. I was awarded a scholarship from Tuskegee University, School of Veterinary Medicine to pursue my Doctorate (PhD) as a result of my outstanding academic performance at the University.
I am leasing 1.89 acres of land at the LaPlaine Agricultural Station which was formerly used by the Division of Agriculture to house its pig unit for many years. I began my pig production program on this property from 2006.
According to an article published by Dominica News Online on August 23, 2016, based on an interview with Mr. Jason Fontaine, Chairman of the La Plaine Disaster Prepared Management Committee, the farm holds between three and four thousand (3000 – 4000) is depositing pig waste directly into the Tabari River.
The article states that the farm is about 100 to 200 feet from the river and when the employees are bathing, feeding the pigs and using the hose to wash down the pen that waste water is going into the river. How and where did Mr. Jason Fontaine, Chairman of the La Plaine Disaster Prepared Management Committee arrive at these figures?
On Thursday 24 August 2016, the day after the DNO article, Mr. Fontaine was interviewed on Q 95 FM’s “Talk ON THE BLOCK” program where he stated that “the consumption of the water from the Taberi River can get people sick with Yellow Fever, Jaundice, Cholera and anything you can think of”.
Our media houses must take time out to examine the manner in which they represent the noble profession “Journalism”. The media should be made to be responsible whenever that it bring the profession into disrepute. The media must be sensitive to balance stories which can be offensive and threatens the existence of one party over the other. It is morally and professionally right to get both sides of a story before any publication, otherwise, it can be bias, misleading and/or embarrassing to either party. The media should not facilitate sensationalism and fearmongering.
There are certain individuals from the La Plaine community who have embarked on mischief, creating fear among the people to fulfil their personal agendas/objectives. Pig s..t floating down the Taberi River, contaminating the water, putting one health at risk, the everyday activities of the river cannot be enjoyed are all valid reasons why people would be skeptical and revolt to get their river back.
If this was the case, they would be correct and I would endorse their behavior. Unfortunately, these allegations are Untrue, Baseless and Malicious which just cannot be substantiated by any scientific, visual or tangible evidence. These false rumors have overstretched the limits of tolerance hence I am prepared to take punitive action for peace of conscience and mind.
I want to make it abundantly clear that the exist waste disposal system located on farm would make it very difficult for pig s..t to reach the Taberi River far less, to be floating down stream.
This rumor of river contamination began in 2014 after the water line of a small business along the seaside was disconnected because the proprietor failed to meet his financial commitments toward a new water supply line. Prior to this, everything was “Nice and Dandy”. This rumor was intended to hit back at me but it became complicated and polarized in political campaign of 2014 since everyone knows my politically allegiance. After the elections everything normalized.
During the turmoil in 2014, the Environmental Health Department was directed to investigate the complaints and recommend solutions. There were several visits by senior staff of the Department accompanied by the District Environmental Health Officer. Water samples were taken and submitted to the Bureau of Standards Laboratory located at Stockfarm for testing. The results showed no evidence of feacal contamination. The Department also provided a design to upgrade the existing waste system.
The Planning Division was also mandated to visit the farm and its environs. The Division report spoke of water along the edge of a farm access road but no mention was made of pig feaces along the road, on the road or reaching the water source. The water along the edge was due to an overflow of the border of the aerated pond (open soakaway) after an extensive period of rain. The farm did the necessary clean up.
The Environment Coordinating Unit also made a visit and offered some suggestions.
During that year, the proprietor of the pig farm secured technical assistance of a Cuban Pig Expert to reorganize the production and waste disposal systems on the farm taking into account the updated version of the waste disposal system designed by the Environmental Health Department. All this was done to alleviate fear and make way for amicable co-existence.
The waste disposal system has improved significantly. The routine cleaning procedures established is very efficient and will not allow pig sh..t to reach the river. Firstly, the solid material is spaded into wheelbarrows and then dumped under a cover shed for curing. This material is bagged and sold as organic fertilizer. Farmers of La Plaine and environs have the opportunity to bag for themselves free of cost. The pens are then hosed down. Waste water from the pens is conducted through a 4 inches pipe conduit system into two manholes (2’ x 3’ x 2’) which lie parallel to each other. These manholes are emptied every three to four day into a concrete bin. The waste water proceeds to a three-chambered septic tank (8’ x 10’ x 16’) then continues through the conduit system to a filter constructed with small stones, quarter inch gravel and sand before being released over land. It should be noted that this water is ideal for crop irrigation and aquaculture.
The tubing system separates the rain water from waste water. The rain water is diverted to a secondary pond. This was necessary since excessive rain water entering the septic tank and aerated pond has resulted in the overflow of the pond’s lower border in 2014.
In 2015, after the passing of Tropical Storm Erika, the villagers used the Taberi River extensively for over three weeks to wash, bathe, cook and picnic without any illness or complaints. There were no infectious or contagious disease outbreaks after Tropical Storm Erika as a result of using the Tabari River. Where was Mr. Fontaine during and after the passing of Tropical Storm Erika? The proprietor of the small business on the seaside has been pumping water from the Tabari River to full his pool and through his overhead sprinkler network system during his Wet Fete activities. Mr. Fontaine and many other have enjoyed being wet for hours with no incidence of illness.
In 2016, this monster became alive again with more vengeance to create fear and panic among villagers. This time a hotel proprietor and his surrogate/mouth piece, disguised as Chairman of the La Plaine Disaster Prepared Management Committee, decided to revive what had been dormant.
On July 15, 2016 the Hotelier complained to the President of the Dominica Hotel and Tourist Association who, in turn, emailed the Minister of Tourism and Urban Renewal and copied the same to the Minister of Health and Human Resources, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Honorable Prime Minister, Mr. Herve Nizard (hotel proprietor),Stephaine Astaphan and Arienne Perryman. A one minute video was attached to his email allegedly showing pig excrement floating and coming down the river from the farm. How interested? How did the pig excrement reach the river? This video is malicious and intended to do mischief.
The surrogate, Mr. Jason Fontaine, Chairman of the La Plaine Disaster Prepared Management Committee took over his assignment on August 23rd, 2016 when he published his first article on Dominica News Online. The writer tried to put up a case without any substantiated scientific evidence – only speculations. He said anything that came to mind that would create fear. How can a farmer manage a pig enterprise between three and four thousand pigs in such a small space? How did he come to the conclusion that the farm has a capacity not exceeding four hundred pigs? If the river is so contaminated, why people never feel sick after using the same river for over three weeks post Tropical Storm Erika? Is he implying that pig waste is so toxic that it would kill fish even in a large flowing river like Taberi? This story makes no sense except creating fear and panic. Of course, this story resonates with those who are political bias and are looking to score cheap political points. The feedbacks to the article explain all. But all free thinking Dominican will know that this is coming from a “loose canon.”
During the Talk On The Block Program with Matt Peltier on Q95 FM Radio August 24, 2016, his second assignment, Mr. Fontaine said that he has just begun his campaign and nothing is going to stop him until the farm is closed or the animal population is substantially reduced. My advice to you sir (Mr. Fontaine), “go right ahead if this is the only job available to you (him) but remember, there can be consequences”. Defamation of Character is a criminal offence.
When the President of DHTA decided to contact the Honorable Ministers and others, he should be cognizant that these cottages and retirement homes are located in a Designated Agriculture Zone. And that, the French hotel proprietor purchased acres of agricultural land at agriculture land selling price and not prices of land destine for Commercial and Real Estate Developments. And that, the hotelier knew fully well the existence and location of the pig farm prior to purchasing the land. His choosing to build cottages and subdivide land into house lots for sale is his prerogative – his choice.
Agriculture is as important as tourism in quest for economic development of Dominica. Agriculture and tourism projects must complement each other for mutual co-existence in areas of close proximity. In this case, a hotel development cannot co-exist with a pig production enterprise due to various factors and the hotelier should have known this. He proceeded with the development and implementation of his hotel project without any compatibility study or if he was aware did not give it the importance it deserved. So why at this stage the investor and his surrogate want to attack my farm to achieve their comfort?
This is the largest and most reliable pig unit in Dominica. We contribute enormously to the national efforts to reduce Dominica’s Food Import Bill by supplying our customers with top quality fresh pork. Many farmers throughout the country depend on the farm for their supply of piglets, boars and gilts to begin their farms or replenish their existing stock. The farm has made tremendous investments in modern technology to upgrade its production system to maximize productivity as well as to control environmental pollution. We continue to work with all concern to ensure our customers’ needs as well as prudent environmental responsibility. The newly constructed abattoir depends on this farm and others to be upgraded to sustain its operation.
Further, the farm has been selected to participate in a Regional Climate Resilience Project sponsored by the Swedish Government. The project is designed to convert the pig waste into energy. This project will benefit the environment, the La Plaine and neighboring communities by providing a cheaper source of energy for domestic purposes, and the farmers with packaged organic fertilizer. The farm is destined to become a training centre for farmers and students.
The struggle continues for building a better Dominica.