Westech will have permission to use methyl bromide pesticide to grow strawberry runners this year while research is conducted on chloropicrin.

Environment Canada plans to conduct a research project on P.E.I. on a pesticide used to help grow strawberry runners, in the hopes of ending the use of a chemical that depletes the ozone layer.

For the past few years Westech of Alberton, P.E.I. has received approval from Environment Canada to use methyl bromide to fumigate the soil where it grows strawberry runners. But under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, methyl bromide is being phased out. Environment Canada says P.E.I. is the last place in Canada it's routinely used.

The company has applied to use another pesticide, chloropicrin, in its place. But the province has raised concerns about the potential impact on groundwater. It will only allow that if research shows chloropicrin has no affect on groundwater.

"We have one environmental issue that we're struggling with when we use methyl bromide and then we have another substance where there's a potential risk of groundwater contamination," said Lucie Desforges, director of the chemical production division at Environment Canada.

"We need to know how serious that risk is, if there is a risk, and from there we'll be able to know which is the lesser evil, as we could say."

The research is expected to take up to two years to complete. In the meantime, Environment Canada says Westtech may use methyl bromide again this year.

The province says there are no plans to have any public input on the project.