Advocates slam watered down mink farming regulations

Nova Scotia's mink farming regulations are diluted and not doing enough to ebb harmful algae blooms in streams and lakes in southwestern Nova Scotia, say environmentalists.

The Ecology Action Centre is accusing the government of bowing down to an industry with annual exports of about $100 million.

"It's indicative of the power and influence that this industry has over the government and over the Department of Agriculture," said Jocelyne Rankin, with the centre

In 2010 the Nova Scotia government tabled a new law to handle the runoff from the province's 80 mink farms.

But according to environmentalists mink carcasses can still be disposed onsite instead of at an approved waste disposal site and the maximum allowable limits of E.coli and phosphorous in surface water are too high.

Mink manure can still be spread on land as fertilizer.

On top of the weak regulations Rankin said the changes aren't happening soon enough.

"Existing farms have three years now to put these regulations into effect and there's also a provision that the administrator can exempt existing farms an additional three years to meet certain requirements for closed-style animal housing and for waste storage facilities," she said.

"For existing farms, this could be six more years before they have to meet these regulations."

One inspector oversees the new rules for the entire industry.

But Agriculture Minister John MacDonnell said some farms are already making changes to their operations and more will soon.

"I'm not sure why people would say they are watered down," he said.

"Individual farmers have to hire an engineer who will have to design what's necessary on their farms to maintain or control the flow of water off the farm, they have to have monitoring wells on those farms."

Still, environmental groups say they will fight the government to try to have the new regulations strengthened.

In April an Acadia University report released by the province's Environment Department showed that mink farms are the most likely source of water quality problems in nine lakes in Nova Scotia.

About half of the mink farms in Canada are in Nova Scotia. The number of animals at those farms has tripled over the past 10 years, to about one million. About 85 per cent of the population is raised in Digby County.