Water pollution

Today, most cattle, hogs and poultry are raised under intensive conditions resembling manufacturing processes. Their manure is spread or sprayed onto fields and pastures as raw, untreated liquefied slurry. This creates an enormous threat of pollution to both surface and ground water--the source of drinking water for most Canadians.

  • Should We Fear the Factory Farm?
    Massive livestock operations are raising troubling questions about water safety by Andrew Nikiforuk and Danylo Hawaleshka, Maclean’s Magazine
  • Submission by the Canadian Environmental Law Association
    to the Ministries of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs and Environment on the Discussion Paper on Intensive Agricultural Operations in Ontario Environment Canada and National Water Research Institute Study
  • How’s the Water? Perspectives on Water and Rural Communities in Saskatchewan
    by Saskatchewan Eco Network. Water quality has an immediate impact on our lives, but is the result of thousands of interactions between human beings, our technological and social systems and the natural world. The quantity of water that is in natural ecosystems and available for industrial and domestic use also depends upon complex and sometimes unpredictable relationships. Saskatchewan Eco-Network’s Water Working Group/Water Watch Committee has gathered information about water and the environment in rural Saskatchewan and has compiled contact information for citizens who want to follow up on their own concerns.

Water pollution problems

Jane Elliott and Charles Maule’s study, Influence of Hog Manure Application on Surface Runoff Water Quality National Water Research Institute, showed that liquid hog manure is more likely to run off and pollute surface waters with nitrates and phosphorus than is commercial fertilizer. (Study compared hog manure to inorganic fertilizer at the Bear Hills Pork Producers’ barn near Perdue, SK.) The increased pollutant level in manure fields was measurable in the first and second years after application.

Manure is spread when the land is not growing a crop, either spring or fall. Fall application means manure will be more likely to be picked up by spring runoff. Manure spreading is primarily a waste disposal process, and only secondarily a fertilizer.

Hog manure is very inconsistent in nutrients, contains drugs, antibiotics, growth hormones, heavy metals from feed additives, pathogens, even human sewage, and excess phosphorus in relation to its nitrogen content.

Brent Paterson, head of Alberta Agriculture’s irrigation branch, said phosphorus is the nutrient that builds up too quickly in soil treated with livestock manure. If Alberta switches to phosphorus-based regulations, about five times as much land will be required for manure spreading, he said. Phosphorus can cause toxic algae blooms if it washes off into surface waters.

Concentration of Manure

Manure spreading must occur within a 2-mile radius of the waste pit due to the cost of moving liquid manure. This concentrates manure in a relatively small area, and may lead to excess build-up and increased leaching and runoff. In some cases manure contracts are short term, and landowners may withdraw permission to apply manure, further intensifying the concentration.

Winter Spreading

SAF allows winter spreading of manure on frozen ground as a contingency in case of unforeseen circumstances leading to a shortage of storage capacity. SAF will permit an operator to spread enough manure to relieve storage pressure plus an additional 25% just in case of a wet or late spring. Manure spread on frozen ground is applied to the surface, will mix with snowmelt in the spring, and it will be months before any growing crop can absorb the nitrogen.

Lagoons have been built in locations where there is an underground water source, sandy or gravelly material, or places where the water table is high. Introduction of antibiotic resistant bacteria into drinking water.

Water and ILOs 2009.pdf58.97 KB