Many people blame mink farms for the Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) blooms on lakes in Yarmouth County. (Allister d'Entremont )

Mink farms are the most likely source of water quality problems in nine lakes in western Nova Scotia, according to an Acadia University report released by the province's Environment Department.

"The most severely impacted lakes are located within the upper region of the Meteghan and Carleton watersheds and are located in close proximity to areas having a high concentration [of] mink farms," says the report by Mike Brylinsky, of the Acadia Centre for Estuarine Research.

"Nutrients within the impacted lakes consist of extremely high levels of inorganic phosphorus, which is most likely a result of the use of superphosphate in the mink farming industry."

The province began investigating in 2008 after complaints of algae blooms in Digby and Yarmouth County, particularly the Carelton, Meteghan and Sissiboo watersheds.

Water quality surveys were carried out in 2009, 2010, 2011.

About half of the mink farms in Canada are in Nova Scotia. They generated roughly $80 million in export sales in 2009. About 85 per cent of provincial production occurs in Digby and Yarmouth counties.

Karen White, spokeswoman with the Environment Department, said the province has identified a number of key actions to address the water quality in the area, including:

  • Conduct further inspections under the Environment Act to identify specific sources of pollution. 
  • Public education and enforcement action for releases of mink wastes into the environment.
  • Investigate new technologies and additional remediation options to improve water quality in the impacted lakes.
  • Provide input on the creation of Fur Industry Regulations to help prevent releases of mink wastes into the environment.
  • Establish a long-term community-based monitoring program in collaboration with the local municipalities and communities to assess the implementation of any mitigation and controls.