From: Rod Nickel, Reuters, WINNIPEG, Manitoba
Published June 3, 2011 07:05 AM

Manitoba to curb hog farms to save Lake Winnipeg

Manitoba will tighten rules on expanding hog farms and ban manure spreading to cut the flow of phosphorus into the world's 11th-biggest freshwater lake, as Lake Winnipeg deteriorates from algae growth.


The western Canadian province, which has the country's third-largest pig herd, will also protect wetlands that filter out pollutants and force the capital Winnipeg to build a sewage treatment plant, Premier Greg Selinger said on Thursday.

The buildup of nutrients like phosphorus from sewage, farms or natural sources is a major environmental problem for the world's lakes and rivers, including Lake Winnipeg.

It causes growth of blue-green algae that can produce toxins that sicken humans and animals, and use up the water's oxygen. "The objective is to save the lake from going dead on us," Selinger told reporters.

Canada is the world's third-biggest shipper of pork. But changes in Manitoba are not likely to impact markets because hog production has been falling for several years in the province.

The 24,000-square-kilometre (9,000 square mile) Lake Winnipeg collects water from a farming area across four Canadian provinces and the northern U.S. Plains. The lake ultimately drains into Hudson Bay.

Fertilizer use on crops and Manitoba's expansion of its livestock herds since the 1990s are key causes of blooming algae on Lake Winnipeg, according to a five-year study commissioned by the province, which called for a 50 percent reduction of phosphorus into the lake.

Selinger said that is the province's goal, but he gave no timeframe.

He said Manitoba will block hog farm expansions that don't use environmental practices to protect water, such as chemically treated lagoons. From 2013 it will also ban the spreading of pig manure on fields in winter to fertilize soil.

Karl Kynoch, a hog farmer and chairman of the Manitoba Pork Council said the government was already planning to ban winter manure spreading, which few hog farmers still do.

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