Fish

What we know about the spill and how it’s being investigated

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A large-scale watermain rupture at a dairy farm in the northwest corner of the state has spilled some of its waste into the water system and left a large hole in the ground, according to a new investigation by the Manitoba Government.

The rupture at the Ashland Dairy in Winnipeg is the latest in a series of watermain breaks at dairy farms in Manitoba, and could have a far-reaching impact on the country’s dairy industry.

The leak is believed to have occurred on June 1, but officials said Thursday that they had not been able to determine a cause for the spill until Wednesday.

The spill caused $150,000 in damages, and about 10,000 litres of waste were released into the local creek.

A provincial investigation is ongoing.

“Our investigation is still in its infancy, but I think we can say that we do believe there is an issue that has been identified and that it is being investigated,” said Erin Wainwright, spokeswoman for Manitoba Hydro.

“We will be releasing a report within a couple of weeks.”

Wainshaw told CBC News that the company has identified two areas where it believes there is potential contamination, and is working to remove the waste.

She said it will take at least two weeks to remove all of the waste from the creek, which is at a depth of about 1.5 metres.

“The creek is shallow, but we know that the water levels of the creek are higher than what it was before we started our work,” she said.

The investigation was launched by the Natural Resources Ministry after Manitoba’s Environment and Parks Department received an anonymous tip about the potential for a watermain break at the dairy farm.

Officials from the ministry’s wastewater treatment plant and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources were called to the dairy on Thursday afternoon.

The Manitoba Government is not commenting on the investigation.

“I can confirm that this is an isolated incident and no impact has been felt,” said Wainwisow.

The dairy is one of about 40 dairy farms that use a system called hydroponics.

A hydroponic system uses nutrients to grow milk.

“If you have a dairy with the proper amount of nutrients in the right location and it’s done correctly it can produce a lot of milk, it’s the same in any dairy,” said Brian Pfeffer, president of the Manitoba Milk Producers Association.

“But if the dairy system is not in place it’s not going to produce as much milk.”

While hydroponically-grown milk is generally produced in small batches at dairy operations, the industry is booming.

A recent report by the National Milk Progamers Association showed the industry was worth about $2 billion in Manitoba in 2013, and predicted the industry would reach $1.5 billion by 2035.

The new leak could have far-ranging consequences on the dairy industry, said Peter Leduc, executive director of the Natural Resource Development Institute.

“There is a concern that a lot more people in Manitoba will be drinking water with less than what they should,” he said.

“People may be drinking less than they should because they have not seen the advisories and they’re not aware of what to do about it.”

The Manitoba dairy farm, where a leak has occurred, is located in Ashland.