The senior science and policy advisor for the David Suzuki Foundation says he doesn't think the people of Nova Scotia are any better served with the introduction of new fur farm regulations than they were by what was in place before.
“And that's a shame,” said John Werring.
He refers to rules already in place that the government could have availed themselves of to abate the decade-long concern about pollution from these farms before the new regulation was even introduced (the Federal Fisheries Act, the NS Environment Act, the NS Agriculture and Marketing Act, the NS Health Act, Occupational Health and Safety Act).
“The evidence would suggest they have failed to implement and/or enforce even those rules. So, what is to say things will be any different moving forward?” he said.
The crux of the problem is the government’s apparent reluctance to get tough with the mink farming industry.
“The teeth on the mink are likely to be more of a deterrent to growing and handling these animals than the threat of any fines or actions that can be taken against an operator for failing to abide by these so-called rules,” said Werring.
He’s concerned that there are no offense provisions under the new regulations, with no mention under the Fur Industry Act of it being an offense to do <anything>... " or an operator may not .... <do anything>, except operate or alter or authorize the alteration of an existing fur farm a farm without a permit.
He refers to the toughest penalty in the new regulations being that "the administrator may suspend for up to one year or revoke a licence if an inspection discloses an operator is not in compliance with the Act or regulations; any applicable provision of the Environment Act or its regulations; any applicable provision of the Occupational Health and Safety Act or its regulations; or any applicable provision of the Health Protection Act or its regulations.”
Specified actions that can be taken against an operator that violates any section of the "environmental monitoring components" of the regulations (including the surface water, groundwater and soil pollution monitoring guidelines) are that: "the administrator may place any measures on the operator that the administrator considers necessary to reduce the level of the substance.”
The most specific things in the new regulations refer to fulfilling basic requirements for obtaining/renewing/amending licenses (e.g. management plans) and prescribed fees.
Nothing in the regulation caps the size of mink farms or their number in any given area.
That the majority of the regulations are non-specific also concern Werring. They include environmental restrictions and requirements for monitoring the impact of the farms on the environment.
“Except the absurdly high permitted levels of phosphorous and fecal coliforms that can occur in surface waters and groundwater and soils, at the discretion of the minister and to be self-regulated by the industry,” he said.
“I note that the environmental monitoring and protection components of this regulation are given only three pages of ink out of 16 in total and comprise only 11 short sections in total ... and they conveniently forgot to even mention "air quality monitoring" - which is supposed to be a part of any monitoring program (S. 34 (1) of the Fur Industry Act - Every operator shall establish a monitoring program that includes regular monitoring and testing of water, soil and air by a designated professional). Odor from these farms is a huge issue,” he said.
In the regulations, surface water discharges and groundwater need only be tested twice a year, in May and November. Soils must be sampled once every three years.
“For an industry such as this, that is not sufficient in my view. Twice a year surface water discharge monitoring would do absolutely nothing to reduce the levels of pollution in the Tusket River system.”
To summarize, Werring says one need only visit the Q &A sheet on the regulations published by the government.
In response to the very first question: "What is in the fur industry regulations?" it says, "The regulations clearly state that no discharge of contaminants is permitted from the farm property to a watercourse."
“What a load of brown bananas. These regulations say absolutely nothing of the sort,” said Werring.