Comments on Draft Fur Farming Regulations

The following art TREPA’s comments sent to the Minister of Agriculture

The draft regulations are welcome. We realize that while they are necessary, they may not be sufficient in and of themselves to assure that fur farming does not pollute. That said, we raise the following comments for consideration:

1. Definition 2 (f) “’contaminated water’ means water that has come into contact with manure;”

Water that comes into contact with waste food, carcasses, and urine should also be considered contaminated.

2. Definition 2(g): “constructed surface water treatment system” means an engineered system designed to simulate the water quality improvement functions of natural wetlands to treat and contain surface runoff pollutants and decrease loadings to surface waters;

Delete “decrease” and insert “eliminate” as there should be no loadings to surface water from fur operations.

3. Definition 2(p): ““manure” means the excrement of a fur‐bearing animals;”

While a complete list of the components of manure may lead to a loophole where certain harmful components are missed in the regulations, “excrement” should explicitly include feces and urine, at least.

4. Definition 2(u) “significant change” ʺmeans the construction of additional animal housing buildings or the lesser of a 10 per cent or higher increase over the highest number of breeding herd at any one time recorded during the previous year or an increase of 875 female fur‐bearing animals

This definition is troubling, because 875 female fur-bearing mink may produce over 7,000 young mink per year.

5. Definition 2(z): “water course” means “every river, stream, lake, creek, pond, spring, lagoon or other natural body of water, and the water therein, within the jurisdiction of the Province, whether it contains water or not, and includes all ground water”

If natural wetlands are not included in this definition, they need to be explicitly given the same treatment as watercourses. Wetlands saturated with nutrients do not absorb more nutrients.

6. Clause 3A : “For the purposes of Section 35 of the Act, a fur farm in existence at the time of the coming into force of this Act is required to meet the standards set out in the regulations where there has been a significant change to the fur farm.”

This may give farmers the impression that there is a loophole to escape the provisions of Section 35 of the Act (Fur farms that exist at the time of the coming into force of this Act must meet the standards set out in the regulations within three years of the coming into force of this Act.).

This clause is better worded “For the purposes of Section 35 of the Act, a fur farm in existence at act the time of the coming into force of this Act is required to meet the standards set out in the regulations when there has been a significant change to the fur farm, or within three years of the coming into force of the Act, whichever comes first.”

All farms should begin the process of complying with the regulations immediately.

It should be clear in the regulations that all farms will have to comply, within three years, at the latest.

7. Part 1, Clause 5(2)(b) the civic address of the fur farm and, where available, the property’s parcel identification number as defined in the Land RegistrationAct and global positioning system coordinates;

Delete “where available”
There is no reason why PID and GPS coordinates would not be available.

8. Part 1, clause 5 (2) (d)(iii) “all watercourses, water bodies and wells located on the fur farm property;”

Insert “wetlands” after “watercourses”

9. (iv): “a map showing property’s boundaries and all of the following: all watercourses, water bodies and wells on all properties abutting the fur farm property within 100 meters of the fur farm’s boundary line as measured perpendicular to the boundary line

100 meters horizontally, vertically, or along the ground? Should be explicitly horizontal. Also, insert “wetlands” after “watercourses.”

10. Part 1, Clause 6(3)(f): No person shall operate or authorize the operation of a fur farm otherwise than in accordance with: (f) all other laws of general application, including the Environment Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Should include Fisheries Act, as well. See clause 35:

“35. (1) No person shall carry on any work or undertaking that results in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat.

“Alteration, etc., authorized

“(2) No person contravenes subsection (1) by causing the alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat by any means or under any conditions authorized by the Minister or under regulations made by the Governor in Council under this Act.”

11. Part 1, Clause 7(3): “Operators of fur farms not exceeding five hundred female fur‐bearing animals in the breeding herd at time are exempt from the requirement to have monitoring wells.”

Disagree. (a) This should depend on previous land use in the area and on the land use of adjacent properties. If nutrient levels in the area are rising or approaching saturation, monitoring is needed. The Department’s Manure Management Guidelines (2006) suggest that 200 mink/ha (i.e. 50 m2/mink) is the maximum density which assures minimal risk to nearby water resources. (b) Multiple, nearby small farms can have the same environmental effect as a large farm. While they may be considered as one farm if they are owned by different family members, what if they belong to different, independent operators? This is a serious loophole, which needs to be closed.

12. Part 2, Clause 14(b) “manure deposit locations must be protected from infiltration of all sources of water, including precipitation and animal watering systems;”

Protection from percolation into moist soil is also needed. Mink holding facilities should have impermeable floors. This should be explicit in the regulations.

13. Part 2; Clause 15(c): “where the system is earthen construction, it must be constructed to be impermeable, with a minimum separation of 1 m to the groundwater table or bedrock.”

No earthen ponds are impermeable. One meter from the groundwater table or bedrock is not an adequate separation for groundwater protection.

14. Part 2, Clause 17: “Contaminated water from the manure storage site must be captured, no discharge of contaminants is permitted from the farm property or to a watercourse.”

If the current definition of “contaminated water” (water which has come into contact with manure) stands as correct, what about “non contaminated” water discharge? It may have come in contact with waste food, old carcasses, or other potentially hazardous stuff.
This section must be rewritten for clarification.
Also, insert “or natural wetland” after “watercourse.”

15. Part 2, clause 18: “Manure storage site must be located at minimum separation distances from a watercourse, well or an off‐farm dwelling as set out in Table A.”

Insert “natural wetland” after “watercourse.”

16. Part 2, Clause 19: “Manure must be disposed to a disposal facility approved by the Minister of Environment or in an approved manner identified under a nutrient management plan.”

Elaboration: “If the land can absorb the additional nutrients under a nutrient management plan prepared by a certified nutrient management planner, it can be land applied. Requires sufficient land base for application.”

The absorptive capacity of the land depends on the nature of the land and its past history, not just on its area. Nutrient levels in shallow ground water should be determined before land application is approved.

17. Part 2, Clause 21: Feed Storage and disposal: Should add a subclause “Contaminated water from the waste feed storage site must be captured, no discharge of contaminants is permitted from the farm property or to a watercourse.”

18. Part 2, Clause 22: “Fur‐bearing animals which die on the fur farm” should include those which are slaughtered. This should be an elaboration, just to make sure no misunderstanding occurs.

19. Part 2, Clause 23: The location of the test wells should be determined by a qualified engineer.

Part 2, Clause 23(d): “a person designated by the Minister must be present for the drilling of the upgrade monitoring well and for taking of the initial water samples from the well;”

Should also include downgrade wells, which are more likely to demonstrate pollution.

20. Part 2, clause 23(f): “the samples for all tests performed after the initial test may be taken for testing by the operator unless the Minister determines independent sample collection is warranted;

Elaboration: Minister may order tests to be taken by an independent collector if there are concerns about integrity of past tests.

(a) Better if all sampling is by independent agents. (b) Delete “may” in the Elaboration and replace with “shall.”

21. Part 2, Clause 23(j) “ at the operator’s expense, the Minister may conduct random tests of an operator’s monitoring wells.”

Random tests are good, but the level of intensity should be high enough to ensure compliance. See suggestion in Comment 20.

22. Part 2, clause 23 (k) “any constructed surface water treatment system cannot discharge water exceeding the concentrations prescribed in Table B. any constructed surface water treatment system cannot discharge water exceeding the concentrations prescribed in Table B.”

There should be no discharge, and level of phosphorus prescribed in Table B is much too high, according to federal publications.

23. Clause 17(1) of the Act says “ For the purpose of the administration of this Act, an inspector may, at any reasonable time,
(a) enter and inspect any fur farm to determine compliance with this Act and the regulations”

“Reasonable time” is not defined in the Regulations. Inspectors must have the power to make unannounced visits to farms and do unannounced checks of records. This needs to be specified clearly either in the Act or the Regulations.
The monitoring, inspecting, and auditing schedule and structure needs to be better-defined. We suggest that each farm be randomly visited at least every two years, with water samples taken, premises inspected with an overview of the surrounding area and records of the quantity and disposal of manure, waste feed and bodies audited.

24. Overview Q6 (Enforcement):
“The enforcement of the fur regulations is the responsibility of the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture. We are exploring dedicating a specialized resource to be in place for when the regulations come into effect.”

A specialized resource is with adequate budgetary provisions is badly needed.
Close cooperation with Environment NS is also needed. Note their provision 67 (2): “No person shall release or permit the release into the environment of a substance in an amount, concentration or level or at a rate of release that causes or may cause an adverse effect, unless authorized by an approval or the regulations” and 71: “Any person responsible for the release of a substance under this Part shall, at that person’s own cost, and as soon as that person knows or ought to have known of the release of a substance into the environment that has caused, is causing or may cause an adverse effect,
(a) take all reasonable measures to
(i) prevent, reduce and remedy the adverse effects of the substance, and
(ii) remove or otherwise dispose of the substance in such a manner as to minimize adverse effects;
(b) take any other measures required by an inspector or an administrator; and
(c) rehabilitate the environment to a standard prescribed or adopted by the Department. 1994-95, c. 1, s. 71. ”

Environment NS needs to have sufficient budget to monitor as needed and their staff have the same authority to make unannounced visits to farms to assure that harmful release is not happening.

Cooperation with DFO (See Fisheries Act clauses) is also advisable.

25. Table A, Heading “Distance from Watercourse or Well:” Insert “Natural wetland” after “watercourse.”
Additional comments:
While beyond the mandate of these regulations, a few important needs must be emphasized.

(1) General question Q2 addresses the concern re. cumulative effects thus:” The regulations require that no discharge of contaminants be permitted from the farm property to a watercourse.” (a) This is encouraging, but accidents can happen. (b) The above statement is debatable, since non-contaminated water (i.e. water not in contact with manure) can still carry excessively high nutrient loads (See federal, publication re. phosphorus levels) to a wetland, if it is not considered or treated as a watercourse , so there can still be cumulative effects. (c) In general, cumulative effects of past land use, and management on the basis of watershed, not political boundaries, need to guide the regulatory process. Otherwise, problems with pollution will continue to affect the environment, citizens and governments. This remains a major issue.

(2) The nutrient-rich wastes from mink farms can be assets elsewhere in the province. They can be used to fertilize crops in less nutrient-rich areas without polluting. The Department should have a program to encourage this. If there is concern about using this stuff with food crops, they can be promoted for non-food crops.

(3) Good coordination between the by-laws of various municipalities and various provincial Acts and regulations will be important. Good communications among the Departments of Agriculture, Environment, Natural Resources, and municipalities is needed.

This entry was posted in Fur Farm Management. Bookmark the permalink.