Right the two wrongs
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/08/2012 (3759 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A new study of water quality in Canadian lakes by researchers at the University of Alberta underlines the weaknesses of ill-considered environmental policies of both the federal and Manitoba governments. The study just published on blue-green algae indicates that across Canada, the blooms are producing worrisome levels of toxic microcystin, which is a health threat to people and animals, and concentrations are highest in lakes with low nitrogen-to-phosphorus levels. The Harper and Selinger governments should sit up and take note.
The researchers’ findings imply more needs to be done to cut the levels of nutrients running into the water bodies that support fisheries, wildlife, the environment and Canada’s recreation industry. The algae are unsightly and microcystin is toxic to the liver of humans and animals and is implicated as a cancer threat.
The researchers found it was most prevalent in Alberta and Manitoba, but is found in every region in the country. Where the ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus was lower, it flourished. This despite the fact Canada has for decades cut the levels of phosphates in consumer products and warned industries and municipalities about the threats of nutrient runoff from farming, corporations, waste-water treatment plants and private property.
Blue-green algae can choke the life out of a lake and good research shows it makes little sense to spend money to cut the nitrogen in waste-water effluent, since the most pernicious blue-green algae can capture all the nitrogen it needs from the environment and flourish.
The Manitoba government, however, is ignoring the weight of scientific opinion that shows it should concentrate on cutting phosphorus in municipal and industrial runoff to cut the growth of the algae. The Selinger government has adopted a foolhardy and expensive policy of cutting phosphorus and nitrogen, yoking municipalities such as the City of Winnipeg with enormous cost for no useful purpose and perhaps causing damage.
The researchers are not certain why it is that microcystin is highest in lakes with low nitrogen-to-phosphorus levels. They say better science is needed to pinpoint source, cause and effect. In a slap at the recent decision by the Harper government to shut down the Experimental Lakes Area, they noted the research camp east of Kenora is uniquely positioned to do whole-environment, controlled experiments.
To save $2 million to $3 million, the federal government would kill the pure science conducted at ELA that serves not just Canada, but the global environment. Blue-green algae and its killer byproduct are just one of a myriad of environmental threats awaiting to be defined and countered.
The Selinger government, while bemoaning the closure of the ELA, chooses to ignore the best of science that shows its policy to force the City of Winnipeg to spend to spend hundreds of millions to take nitrogen out of waste water effluent is a colossal waste itself. Now it is being told that its policy might also contribute to a toxic buildup in Manitoba lakes.
Manitoba would be in stronger position to mount a lobby in Canada to convince the Harper government to reverse the closure of a globally recognized and valued research facility if its provincial government respected the value of environmental science and learned from its lessons.