Environmental Issues in New Brunswick

Office of the Auditor General of Canada and the
Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

From:

The Comité de la Santé Publique et l'Environnement du Madawaska (the Co-Sa-Pue) [Madawaska public health and environment committee]

We would like this file to be treated as a petition. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

For the past three years, there have been pig farms in our region of St. Leonard, Siegas and Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes. In the farrowing barns there are between 4, 000 and 10, 000 adult pigs. The production of piglets is between 25 and 30 per sow per year. Therefore, there are between 100, 000 and 250, 000 piglets born each year if the figure is 25 piglets per sow and between 120, 000 and 300, 000 if the figure is 30 piglets per sow per year. All of these piglets remain with their mothers for approximately 15 days or until they reach a weight of 15 lbs.; they are then transferred to the nursery barn, where they will remain until they reach 50 lbs. At that point, they are again transferred, this time to feedlots. We have one feedlot that contains between 800 and 1, 000 pigs. They remain there until they reach upwards of 200 lbs. and are then sent to packing plants.

If one considers that one adult pig produces one tonne of liquid manure per year, tonnes of liquid manure will accumulate very quickly, leading to environmental risks. These tonnes of liquid manure are spread over the fields adjoining our private properties and the watercourses that drain into streams and rivers, thereby threatening fish habitat.

We are concerned because initially this project was to consist of 35, 000 sows and was planned for another region, which rejected the project. We are grappling with problems now and do not want the situation to worsen. We do not want additional pigs to round out the 35, 000 initially planned for.

We became aware of this problem during public information meetings featuring speakers from Alberta and the United States. The horror stories are multiplying—polluted watercourses, lagoon spills that break out and kill thousands of fish. In North Carolina, the Neuse River environmental disaster was twice that of the Exxon Valdez. In Quebec, at least ten rivers are in poor condition because of intensive agricultural activity. You may wish to refer to Hugo Latulippe's documentary Bacon, le film in which a number of rivers are mentioned.

We want to act responsibly and preventatively and avoid such problems here by limiting the number of pigs in the region. The lack of sufficient regulation and the weakness of the regulations that are in place allow the swine industry to look to New Brunswick as an ideal place to locate. Our government does not seem to be able to learn from the experience of other provinces and even other countries. This is why the general public is mobilizing in small groups to fight these swine industry giants who are seeking the support of our municipal and provincial governments. What will be the clean-up costs? The costs of irreversible harm to the environment? Economic losses to the region related to sport fishing, tourism, etc.

We pose the following questions to the Department of the Environment:

(1) What are you doing to ensure that fish habitat is being protected? (2) What are you doing to prevent degradation of the water quality of our watercourses?

Water tests that were performed on certain streams near the manure disposal fields have revealed just how fragile the balance is in these streams. The basic assessment of the health of three watercourses in the St. Leonard region shows that there are chemical, physical, and microbiological risks. With the advent of spreading of liquid pig manure brings an additional stress that further threatens the ecosystem balance.

We will conduct further tests at various times between now and the end of next year.

We would like to pose the following questions to the Department of Agriculture: In order to minimize the environmental damage, will the department impose a moratorium on the number of pigs in our region thus allowing time for environmental impact assessments to be conducted so that risk to the water quality of our watercourses can be understood.
As reference:

(1) Scientific Report by the Comité de Santé Environnementale [environmental health committee] for the Ministère de la Santé et des Services Sociaux du Québec [Quebec department of health and social services] (June 2000)

(2) Bacon, le film by Hugo Latulippe

(3) [name withheld]

(4) Factory Farming—visit the Grace web sites at:

(Appendix)
www.gracelinks.org

[Original signed by Noëlla T. Simard]

Noëlla T. Simard
[Spokesperson for the Co-Sa-Pue]
Address: 11860, Route 144
St. Leonard, NB
E7E 2M2]

Minister's Response: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Ms. Noëlla T. Simard
Comité de la santé publique
et de l' environnement de Madawaska
11860 Route 144
Saint-Léonard, New Brunswick
E7E 2M1

Dear Ms. Simard:

I am writing in response to the environmental petition you addressed to the Office of the Auditor General and the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, a copy of which was forwarded to me for consideration. It has been treated as a petition (Environmental Petition #39) under section 22 of the Auditor General Act.

I appreciate being made aware of your environmental concerns related to intensive livestock operations in Saint-Léonard and Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes. I want to assure you that minimizing the risks to the environment from the agriculture sector is a challenge that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada takes very seriously.

In Canada, both the environment and agriculture are shared jurisdictions and every level of government has some responsibility for protecting the environment and regulating agriculture. The responsibility for issues such as farm size and manure disposal falls within the purview of provincial and municipal governments. Having shared jurisdiction does not, however, preclude the federal government from working with the provinces and territories to implement programs and policies that will protect and sustain the environment. In June 2001, the federal, provincial, and territorial ministers of agriculture met in Whitehorse and agreed to collaborate in five key areas, one of which was the environment. The ministers also called for accelerated environmental action in four key areas: water, air and soil quality, and biodiversity, and directed that meaningful and measurable goals be developed for these actions. Your views are important, and I encourage you to participate in the process of defining our next steps to help ensure that environmental performance is addressed in a manner that promotes the interests of all Canadians.

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