Vermette Wood Preservers is a family business operating 19 kilometres north of Prince Albert that focuses on wood preservation on items such as utility poles and fence posts.

The company was originally founded in 1973 when brothers Archie and Gil Vermette went into business together. Years later, the company was passed on to Archie’s oldest son, Perry. As the wood preservation industry modernized pressure-treated systems, Vermette Wood Preservers bought a new system in 1982 and built their wood treatment plant.

The Spruce Home operation is one of the very few pentachlorophenol-certified wood treatment plants in North America. Perry Vermette, CEO of Vermette Wood Preservers, said that since 2009, his company has been one of the largest suppliers of treated utility poles to the province. “I was approached by SaskPower in 2009, and they said, Why don’t you treat utility poles? Your right here in Saskatchewan, pentachlorophenol is the only product we use for utility poles, and it’s getting harder and harder to find people that treat with that,” he said. “So they literally took the time to train me and my staff at Vermette’s how to build a proper utility pole, how to treat it the way they needed it to fit their specs. In 2010, we provided our first 1600 poles to SaskPower, and from that day on, it has been an awesome partnership.”

Last year, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, a Canadian government agency responsible for the regulation of pest control products in Canada, decided to terminate its license for the pentachlorophenol chemical used by Vermette’s company. Vermette said that due to the new regulations put in place by the PMRA, there is a good chance that his company will be forced to close its doors.

“If the federal government doesn’t review things, will Vermette’s close its doors? There’s a very high chance because the regulations being brought forth by PMRA are that pentachlorophenol as of October 4th cannot be used or cannot be on my property after October 4th of 2023,” said Vermette.

He explained that he would need 11 to 12 months to get rid of his surplus of pentachlorophenol. “I currently have about $300,000 worth of chemical; it will take me about 11 to 12 months to use that chemical up in utility poles, agricultural fence posts, and bridge timbers,” Vermette said.

In the United States, where similar regulations are being made against the use of pentachlorophenol, companies in the industry have been given a five-year period to completely phase out the use of pentachlorophenol and allow companies to exhaust their existing stock.  “We are going to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales, I’m going to lose employees, and when the federal government says October 4th, they’ve told me that I could have as much as a $250,000 dollar fine, and if they come to my place and I’m still treating with penta, if I have penta wood on my ground, jail time. I’m trying to keep my province with power, I’m trying to keep the lights on, and I’m going to get fined and go to jail,” explained Vermette.

(Photo courtesy of Vermette Wood Preservers website.)