On Tuesday May 7, I asked in Question Period, about the government's plans with respect to reducing the amount of phosphorous going into Lake Winnipeg. Phosphorous is the rate limiting nutrient for the formation of algae, and in order to reduce the algal blooms on Lake Winnipeg we need to reduce the phosphorous in Lake Winnipeg. My questions and the Minister's responses are below.
North End Sewage Treatment Plant - Lake Winnipeg Phosphorus Reduction
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, soupy-green and potentially toxic algal blooms accumulate each summer on Lake Winnipeg, one of the world's most threatened lakes. They often prevent those who live around or visit the lake from swimming and enjoying the waters.
The largest point source of phosphorus, the root cause of the algal blooms, is from Winnipeg's North End sewage treatment plant. Each day, it puts 600 kilograms of phosphorus into the Red River. The 2006 Lake Winnipeg stewardship committee report said Winnipeg's North End treatment plant will have removed the major proportion of phosphorus by December 31, 2014, but it hasn't happened yet.
Why is the government waiting and so many years behind?
Hon. Rochelle Squires (Minister of Sustainable Development): I'm pleased to take a question from the Liberals today on sustainability for Lake Winnipeg. Just last week, we were taking questions from the same Liberal Party about questions that would go in the opposite direction of sustainability, so I'm glad to see that they're back on track supporting initiatives to clean up Lake Winnipeg, to address the sustainability on Lake Winnipeg.
We know under the NDP that Lake Winnipeg became the most threatened lake in the world, according to international agencies. We're taking action to clean up the lake. We've got several initiatives under way that I'll be more than happy to share with the member in my next answer.
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights, on a supplementary question.
Mr. Gerrard: Madam Speaker, the Lake Winnipeg Foundation and the International Institute for Sustainable Development have put forward a solution to reduce the phosphorus in Winnipeg's waste-water North End plant by 426 kilograms per day, or 70 per cent from its current levels.
The proposal involves the use of ferric chloride added early in the treatment process to bind and remove phosphorus, an approach already widely used in treatment plants around the Great Lakes.
It may be years before Winnipeg's North End treatment plant is fully upgraded, so I ask the minister: Will the Province support this initiative as an important and needed interim measure to meet the Province's phosphorus removal targets this year?
Ms. Squires: I'd like to take the opportunity to thank IISD and the Lake Winnipeg Foundation for their commitment to Lake Winnipeg and their initiative that they did bring forward to look at a chemical nutrient removal process as an interim measure.
Our government is committed to the biological nutrient removal process that we have committed to. And I do understand that the Lake Winnipeg Foundation and IISD have had many conversations with engineers about the chemical removal process, and that–I do understand that there are concerns with that process. We're looking through them, but we're listening to the experts on whether or not that would be a viable alternative for an interim measure for nutrient removal to clean up Lake Winnipeg.
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights, on a final supplementary.
Mr. Gerrard: I suggest the minister move that look along because it could be a long time before the full biological removal is completed.
At the Lake Winnipeg Foundation's annual general meeting last week, it was reported that their citizen science project to monitor waterways in the Lake Winnipeg watershed is going well and is identifying hotspots, including, for example, the Manning Canal in southeast Manitoba.
Now that the watershed monitoring is showing where the Province needs to act to clean up our waterways, will the Province now act to reduce the phosphorus in such hotspots to help Lake Winnipeg and so that Manitobans can once again be sure that they will be safe swimming in Lake Winnipeg whenever they want?
Ms. Squires: Not only is our government committed to the cleanup of Lake Winnipeg efforts, we're also committed to transparency. That's why last month our government was very pleased to partner with The Gordon Foundation and to now publicly release all the information that we're collecting on a regular basis about the nutrients and the various hotspots in the province of Manitoba.
This is information, I'd like to point out, that was hidden. It was concealed by the NDP government for years and years and years. Lake Winnipeg Foundation has asked for a very long time for the transparent process and the transparency of the nutrient information. We’re releasing that data so that all Manitobans can have access to information about Lake Winnipeg.