Scotian Mink Industry Blamed for Water Woes
are running high in Yarmouth County. A proposal for a lakeside mink ranch
near Carleton, Nova Scotia has resulted in a call for the provincial government
to declare a moratorium on the establishment of new lake- and riverside
farming developments. Residents are worried their lake will be condemned
to the same fate as many other water-bodies in the Carleton River watershed,
which have been overrun by blue-green algal blooms.
pollution is so bad," says Carlene MacDonald, a Carleton resident.
"The mink breeders choose to use 100 kilometres of river systems as
their toilet and the government allows it by not responding.”
have begun for the mink ranch on Sloans Lake. Locals are concerned their
lake will be polluted by manure, urine, offal, caustic cleaning liquids
and fly control chemicals from the ranch. Photo: Carlene
algae, known as cyanobacteria, have overtaken a number of lakes in the region.
Possible contributing factors include faulty lakeside septic systems and
run-off containing agro-industrial fertilizers, but many believe the primary
source is manure, urine, offal, caustic cleaning liquids and fly control
chemicals from riverside mink ranches in neighbouring Digby County.
and a half million minks are raised in Nova Scotia each year on almost 80
mink farms, according to the CBC. The majority of those mink farms are located
in Digby and Yarmouth Counties. In 2006, Nova Scotia ranked first in the
country for mink farming, with 49.8 per cent of the country’s mink,
according to Statistics Canada.
mainly from mink farming, is one of the fastest growing agricultural sectors
in NS, and currently represents approximately $64 million in farm cash receipts,”
states the Nova Scotia Agriculture Business Plan.
October, Yarmouth County Municipal Council voted to amend a municipal land-use
bylaw, increasing, from 328 to 500 feet, the required minimum set-back distance
from lakes and rivers for buildings and manure storage facilities used in
conjunction with fur ranches, and hog and fowl farms. In response to the
bylaw amendment, the Nova Scotia Mink Breeders Association and a group of
Yarmouth-area livestock farmers filed an appeal with the Nova Scotia Utility
and Review board. At the request of the appellants, the hearing has been
postponed twice since February, most recently on March 30, and a new date
has yet to be announced.
Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture (NSFA) has sided with industry against
the bylaw change. The NSFA was initially named among the appellants but
has since changed tactics and is now coupled with the NS Mink Breeders Association
to jointly present at the eventual hearing. Donna Langille, operations manager
of the NSFA, said the reason for jointly presenting “was that we felt
if we combined our resources [with the NS Mink Breeders Association] into
a collective effort we would have a better standing.”
a more recent example of "collective effort," NS Minister of Agriculture
John MacDonell introduced a bill to the provincial legislature on April
29 that would require fur ranchers to obtain a site approval permit before
being administered their operating license and also would require they have
an environmental management plan in place. The bill was drafted by the Department
of Agriculture with input from the NS Mink Breeders Association.
calls the bill a "scam" and another example of closed-door policy
making which fails to represent the concerns of affected residents.
blue-green alga that is flourishing in many Yarmouth County lakes is a toxin-generating
microscopic plant that thrives in water containing high levels of phosphorus
and nitrogen. The algae's prevalence has raised concerns regarding health
and safety, property values, local ecologies, and the proper regulation
July, 2009, Camp Wapomeo, a YMCA summer camp for local youth that had held
its water recreations on the same lake in Yarmouth Country for 81 consecutive
years, had to relocate their activities due to the algae and consequent
safety concerns. Camp director Kathleen Whyte stated publicly that the algae’s
growth is becoming more apparent each year and said she is inclined to attribute
declining camp registration to parental concerns over health risks.
Cleveland is a member of the Tusket River Environmental Protection Agency
(TREPA), a group comprised of residents and concerned citizens from Carleton.
TREPA has conducted its own research and investigation into the community’s
points to the fact that Nova Scotia’s mink and fur farms are only
subject to recommended guidelines for reducing environmental risk in their
operations, meaning they are self-regulating entities. He says Carleton
needs "bylaws so the municipality would have recourse when it comes
to establishing and enforcing regulations for mink and fur farms.”
In its mission statement and progress report entitled Environmental Performance
of the Agricultural Sector in Nova Scotia 2009: A Report Card, the Nova
Scotia Federation of Agriculture acknowledges that “manure management
in areas of livestock concentration has to be improved,” and that
“the mink sector, in particular, is primarily located in an area with
a small cropland base, reducing alternatives to effectively manage mink
manure and other wastes close to mink farms.”
Report also states, however, that self-regulation is working. "Nova
Scotia’s environmental acts and regulations support [environmentally
sustainable farming practices] by encouraging compliance and by establishing
a culture of self-regulation, minimizing the need for a harsh regulatory
disagrees: “The waste problem has been acknowledged and the ecological
consequences are now apparent, but the culture of self-regulation is not
effectively operating. The provincial acts and regulations are either too
broad to be useful or not being properly enforced.”
agrees: "The pollution is so bad. I’m sure if more people could
be made aware of the situation they would scream 'Pollution!’ along
Blooms Controversy by Steven Wendland
Wendland is a writer and filmmaker from Harmony, Nova Scotia.
This article was originally published by the Halifax Media Co-op.