|"When an activity raises
threats of harm to human health or the environment,
precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and
effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.
In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the
public, should bear the burden of proof." - Wingspread
Statement of the Precautionary Principle.
Assures People Rama Barns Not a Risk -- CBC News -- July 5, 2000
Barn at Centre of More Controversy -- CBC News -- August 4, 2000
- Hog Industry an Environmental
Fiasco -- Community Post -- July 5, 2002
- Rama First in Country to Conduct
Hog Barn Odor Study -- Wadena News -- February 26, 2003
- Sniffer Advertisement -- Wadena
News -- April 16, 2003
- Rama Residents Begin Scientific
Odor Study -- Wadena News -- April 23, 2003
- Water Appeals Board Ruling Favors
Village of Rama -- Wadena News -- April 30, 2003
to Hon. Clay Serby -- Concerned Citizens for a Safe & Healthy
Environment -- May 10, 2002
- Rural Group
Discusses Mega Hog Issue With Serby, Belanger -- June 6, 2003
Barn at Centre of More Controversy
August 4, 2000
More controversy has surfaced over Big Sky Farms' $30-million-dollar hog
operation northwest of Yorkton.
The government says the project does not have permission to go ahead with
one of its planned water sources. Last month, the company said it would use
water from an old CN Rail dam site. That plan was approved by officials from
the nearby village of Rama.
Mike Keitch is the village administrator. He says the village owns the
dam, and does not need further approval to share the water with the hog
operation. The province says that's not true.
Jim Wagner is the regional manager for Sask Water. "If the village
is currently using water from the reservoir, they would need a licence. If
anyone else is using the water from that reservoir, they would also need a
Wagner says he has seen no application from Big Sky. Local residents are
concerned that if Big Sky uses the dam water for the hog barns, the village
could someday run short of water.
Critics say this is one more example of why there should be a full public
inquiry into the project.
Back to top
Industry an Environmental Fiasco
July 5, 2002
On Monday, May 27, the residents in the Rama, Invermay
and Buchanan district received a surprise. The reality of hog-factory odours
was evident as Big Sky Farms began to inject untreated pig manure (slurry)
on land in the area of Number One barn site.
On Monday and Tuesday, there was a terrific windstorm,
but that did not curtail the process. Residents noted that there was an
increase in odour but were not aware that the application of pig slurry was
under way until Thursday.
A family had to seek refuge in their basement because
the odour not only entered the yard but their home, too.
Another resident said he had difficulty breathing and felt like
choking. His eyes were stinging
and his eyesight was temporarily affected.
By the weekend, they were applying slurry from barn
Number Two. A resident had to use a respiratory inhaler twice because of the
adverse effects suffered.
The Village of Rama also had the pig aroma drift into
the community on the weekend.
The next application of slurry commenced on June 7.
That evening a family had to seek refuge in their home because of the
unbearable stench. The manure
was applied beside sloughs and along the edge of the land.
All drainage from this area goes into Good Spirit Lake.
The potential for runoff is present, especially with the unstable
weather patterns this year.
In the manual, Developing a Manure and Dead Animal
Management Plan, compiled by Sask Agriculture and Food (March 2000), it
states: “Solid or liquid manure can be surface spread and then
losses of nitrogen increase with time, warm temperatures, wind and low
The regional specialists listed in the manual are:
Ken McKnight and Billy Henley, Saskatoon; Brian Campbell and Darren
Stovin, Yorkton; and Randy Vopni, Weyburn.
Honourable Clay Serby appointed a monitoring committee
to ease the concerns of residents in this area.
Called the Spirit Creek Watershed Monitoring Committee, the members
are: Don Walters (chairperson);
Good Spirit Cottage owners; Jim Davis, Canora Beach; Randy Goulden, Tourism
Yorkton; Adam Kosar, Mayor of Buchanan; Don Olson, Mayor of Sturgis; Florian
Possberg, Big Sky Farms; Eugene Prychak, livestock and grain producer of
Rama; Jack Prychak, Reeve of RM
of Invermay; and Ray Riesz, Friends of Good Spirit Lake.
This committee is working in isolation and does not
allow observers to their meetings. The attitude by some members is that the
smell is not that bad. One
member said that they didn’t have to notify the residents of the impending
manure application. Another
member stated that all he could do is give his sympathy to the residents.
I hope that with this article, people who are directly
affected by these mega factory hog barns would take a stand and become
active in expressing their concerns. As
citizens we must protect our natural resources and not promote industrial
activities that will destroy this province’s ecosystem.
Let’s not buy into the corporate agenda to the internal advantage
of Agri-businesses and not to the public or the environment.
The push to develop factory hog industries in
Saskatchewan has become an environmental fiasco.
It’s a political and financial scandal that raises questions about
the entire strategy of management of the agricultural policy in regards to
intensive livestock operations in Saskatchewan.
Back to top
First in Country to Conduct Hog Barn Odor Study
February 26, 2003
by Anne Sanderson
While the communities of Foam Lake and
Quill Lake are in the midst of heated debates about the overall impact of
large-scale hog operations, the community of Rama is already into phase two
of an in-depth study which could be used as a mode for operations across
Canada. In 2003, Rama will
participate in an exercise that will see them use their own noses in
determining what is an acceptable level of odor in a community, a study
which sources say has only been conducted once before in Minnesota.
Starting next month, residents who live
within a five-mile radius of the barns will be asked to fill out odor
reports to help University of Saskatchewan researcher Huiqing Guo develop
accurate dispersion models to predict odor distribution, frequency,
intensity, duration and offensiveness.
The data will also be used to document how much and how often odor is
actually being emitted from the barns.
This is the second year of the project.
Last year, the Spirit Creek Watershed Monitoring Committee, which
serves as a public watchdog, asked people to report occurrences of odor and
attempt to tabulate how strong the smell was.
During a public meeting in Rama on Thursday, February 17, the
chairman of the committee, Don Walters, said that during the 13-month
survey, 139 odor forms were submitted out of a possible 1,800.
Although participation was not as high as had been hoped, the
committee used the information to determine that odor affected approximately
three percent of the participants and 97 percent either did not experience
odor or did not care to participate.
Despite the low percentage of people
that indicated that odor was a problem, the committee decided to forge
forward with the next stage of the program, which would include more
science-based testing. Guo
came on board and, with assistance from other University professors and
students, she developed the protocol for a full-scale testing which will
take place from March 2003 to February 2004.
Early next month, new participants will
receive odor training – this will add to the 55 people who received the
training last year. Using their
nose as their guide, the group will be taught how to record odor occurrences
(intensity, duration, character, date and time) on newer, less technical
forms. This information will
then be combined with other data such as weather conditions and results from
odor samples that researchers will take monthly.
Guo said that the University intends to measure odor emission rates
from all sources including both cells of manure storage and each production
room in the barns. Duplicate
samples will be taken from each, she said, indicating that it would cost
about $800 per month just to process them.
The information will then be compiled into a report intended to give
the community the necessary tools to decide what level of odor is
Walters admitted that the success of the
program is dependent upon participation from the community.
He said the monitoring committee wants to represent the people but it
cannot do so without the people’s help.
That drew comments from farmers in the audience who suggested that
perhaps the committee would be more effective if
it were comprised of farmers who are directly impacted by the barns
instead of government appointees or members of the area who are not
necessarily aware of what is going on.
Walters stated that the committee was started by a group of concerned
cabin owners who have just as much at stake.
He said that the committee has worked very hard to address all issues
in an objective fashion but it simply cannot know all the issues unless a
lot more people decide they want to help themselves.
Guo advised The News that she is looking for participation from at
least 20 percent of the people who live within a five-mile radius of the
Other information presented by the
Watershed Committee included results from studies done on airborne dust,
endotoxin and DNA downwind from the barns.
Dr. Phil Willson, a biologist from University of Saskatchewan’s
Veterinary Infectious Disease Organization, said that the program began in
2001 with a detailed analysis of the barns at Elstow and concluded with the
survey of Rama taking place in 2002. The
purpose of the study was to substantiate or disperse of the negative rumors
about the potential environmental effects of swine operations which have
essentially impacted the ability of producers to expand, renovate or build
new facilities. Dust and
endotoxins are well-recognized irritants associated with livestock
facilities and air-borne DNA is a new area of study, Willson said,
indicating that in an effort for the study to be as thorough as possible, it
was done in three phases – before, during, and after seeding.
“As expected, there was a significant
increase in the amount of contaminants just outside the ventilation fan,”
Willson said in his report. “We
can be fairly certain that some of the particles originating in the barn
will be present in the air at 600 metres from the barn, but there were so
few it was difficult to find them,. The
current results indicate that we need more sensitive tests to distinguish
between background levels in fresh air and possible barn-related
contamination of the air. In
the meantime, we continue to believe that the total environmental insult is
Willson defined the three main
components of the test and explained how it was done.
Endotoxin is a pulmonary irritant contained in the cell wall of
Gram-negative bacteria. When
inhaled, it may cause cough, phlegm, wheezing, fever, and in sever cases,
may lead to chronic airway inflammation.
The DNA study was done in order to determine the impact of barn
aerosols. It is believed that
long-time exposure to dust can cause adverse health effects, especially in
lung capacity. The study was
conducted by sampling ambient air using a vacuum pump capable of draining
air through a filter at a rate of 1.13 to 1.17 square metres a minute.
The sampling was housed in a small shelter to protect the filter from
interference caused by precipitation or debris.
Microfiber filters with an extremely small pore size were used to
collect dust samples which were extracted individually in large plastic
bags. Serial dilutions of the
dust solution were then analyzed for Gram-negative bacteria endotoxin.
The remaining solution was stored at 20 degrees below freezing until
microbial DNA could be extracted.
The conclusion of the report stated that
“there appears to be modest environmental concern downwind from the barn,
which may be managed with low impact controls such as landscaping, which is
applicable to modern confinement livestock operations that interact with
neighbours or the public.” Willson
also stated that at 600 metres downwind from the barns, the air was much the
same as “fresh air” samples taken at 2,400 metres upwind.
The Watershed Committee has also had a
study done on the groundwater in the Rama district.
The study, which consisted of random well sampling between May 2001
and October 2002, shows only slight differences in the water quality, with
things like Fecal Coliforms actually reducing slightly during the test
period. There seemed to be no
obvious difference between the seasons.
Following the meeting, farmers and
businessmen told The News that, in their opinion, the issues have been blown
out of proportion. “I have
only smelled the barns about three times in two years,” said one
businessman who lives about a mile and a half from the barns.
A Rama farmer said he did not find the odor any stronger than the
odor he encounters with his own cattle operation.
A loosely knit group calling themselves
Members of the Concerned Citizens Coalition do not agree.
They have made it clear that they oppose the barns and question the
validity of the tests that have been done and are going to be done.
A few of them, who actually reside within a five-mile radius of the
barns, maintain that they have noticed a change in their health since the
barns were built. One said she
has even noticed her cattle straining their necks when they come in contact
with the odor. She suggested
that perhaps livestock were being impacted as well.
Other farmers present had other
questions as to whether extreme odor could affect their crops or their
livestock. Guo says crops are
known to have a strong resistance to high concentrations of chemicals such
as anhydrous ammonia so it is unlikely that any damage from hog barns could
occur. It appeared as if there
has not been any research as to the impact large-scale operations have on
other animals in the vicinity.
Back to top
Livestock Odour Research
Project in Rama Area Requires Two Persons for Part Time Employment
April 16, 2003
Measure odour around production sites at various distances and
directions, five days per week
(flexible times) (3 hrs. per day)
April to October, 2003
Hourly rate, plus fixed expenses
18-65 years old – non-smoker – healthy.
To own reliable vehicle. Training
Date: April 26, 2003
those candidates selected for an interview will be contacted.
Please send resume in writing or E-mail to:
H. Guo, Prof.,
Dept. of Agric. & Bioresource
Univ. of Sask.
57 Campus Dr.
Saskatoon, Sask. S7N 5A9
Back to top
Residents Begin Scientific Odor Study
April 23, 2003
by Anne Sanderson
Residents of Rama continue to break
ground as the first Canadian citizens to participate in an odor testing
program that could be used as a model across the country.
On Wednesday, April 16, about 20 people took part in a training
session which will prepare them for a 12-month testing session aimed at
analyzing the level of odor that is being emitted from the barns in that
The tests are being sponsored by the
Spirit Creek Watershed (Monitoring) Committee (SCWC), which serves as a
public watchdog for the Rama hog barn operations.
Although this is phase two of the odor testing program, this step is
receiving country-wide recognition as the first study to combine data
submitted by the residents with scientific information based on accurate
The models were developed at the
University of Saskatchewan by Saskatchewan researcher, Huiqing Guo.
Guo’s team has developed a formula to analyze odor distribution,
frequency, intensity, duration, and offensiveness, and document how much and
how often odor is being emitted from the barns.
Wednesday’s training session was a
good example of the detailed process of using human noses as scientific
instruments. Most of the time
was spent training the participants how to measure their sense of smell.
This will help to increase the accuracy of the smell tests done
throughout the year, as everyone will be using the same baseline to record
the level of odor coming from the barns.
interview on Thursday, April 17, SCWMC Chairman, Don Walters, told
The News that residents were given different dilutions of a non-poisonous
chemical solution used in paint. They
were then required to rate the sample from 1 to 10 for intensity and test
their own accuracy by checking their answer against the number on the bottom
of the bottle. The exercise,
which is called “calibrating their noses”,
helps to get everyone on the same wavelength when it comes to odor
intensity. Walters said that
during phase one of the project, which was conducted this past year, it was
amazing how well the participants caught on to the system.
Many of the results show very close comparisons.
Color hues were also used to demonstrate
intensity. In much the same
fashion as the smell-testing, residents were asked to guess the strength of
the hue and then determine how close they were, by checking the correct
answers on the back of the sample.
Residents will be required to record the
intensity, duration, character, date and time of odor occurrences.
The information will be recorded on forms which will be collected at
the end of the testing period which is slated for April 2004.
The information provided by the
residents will be used in conjunction with other scientific data being
collected during the same time period.
Filters will be used to take odor samples from the exhaust fans at
the hog barns and the lagoons, which will then be sent away for scientific
The committee also plans to hire two
“nasal rangers” to drive around and assess the odor from the barns
during a 20-week interval. As
the tests will be taken at varying distances from the barns, the rangers
will be required to wear masks to ensure that the calibration of their nose
is not affected by fresh air between locations.
Walters said that SCWMC will be
contacting other eligible residents this week.
He said that at least 15 additional people are needed to give an
overall view of the situation; however, it is hoped that many more residents
will take an interest.
Back to top
Water Appeals Board Ruling
Favors Village of Rama
April 30, 2003
by Anne Sanderson
The Village of Rama is breathing a sigh of relief this week following a
decision by the Water Appeals Board.
On Wednesday, April 16, the village received notice that an appeal
lodged by Concerned Citizens for a Safe and Healthy Environment was
denied, which means that the village’s sale of the CNR dam to Big Sky
Pork will be upheld.
The decision comes less than a year after the village sold the dam in
an effort to raise the necessary capital to join the rural pipeline from
Canora. Prior to that, the
community had been under a boil-water provision.
As a result, when the village announced on May 1, 2002 that it had
made a deal with Big Sky that would provide the necessary funds to put a
permanent end to those water woes, it was seen as a positive solution.
Agreements were signed, and as soon (as) all the tests had been
completed, residents were allowed to start using the new water source.
After receiving approval from Saskatchewan Environment and Resource
Management, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Invermay RM, Sask. Water gave
Big Sky permission on January 11, 2002 to use the dam.
Big Sky was allowed to install a pump, water meter and associated
piping at the reservoir to supply approximately 10,338555 imperial gallons
(47 cubic decametres) of surface water to on-site storage ponds located
near the hog barn facilities.
On February 5, Isabel Muzichuk, representing the Concerned Citizens
Coalition, filed an appeal saying that Sask. Water’s approval threatened
the natural “recharge of wells in the vicinity of the downstream
creek”. Muzichuk also felt
that Big Sky’s use of the dam would restrict inflow to Good Spirit Lake
and the availability of local domestic water supplies.
In the appeal, she also raised many environmental concerns
regarding the construction and operation of the hog barns, citing issues
about odor, soil and water contamination, waste management and their
effect on the downstream creeks and Good Spirit Lake.
In its judgement, the Water Appeals Board stated that the concern
raised regarding the recharge of wells in the vicinity of the downstream
creek was “unfounded”.
“In the first place, surface water recharge
of groundwater in the area is very limited due to the clay
structure of soils,” the final report said.
“Therefore, it is very unlikely that creek flow would finds its
way into the groundwater supply. Secondly,
the drainage area flowing to the reservoir is a relatively small area.
In fact, it is smaller than the drainage area below the reservoir
between the dam and the wells of concern.
Finally, Sask. Water Corporation’s (SWC) water supply study
indicates that the reservoir will continue to spill three years in four
and consequently, the net effect on the creek flow will be negligible”,
the report concluded.
The concern regarding restriction of the inflows to Good Spirit Lake
was also denied as the CNR dam represents only two percent of the drainage
area contributing to Good Spirit Lake.
This was backed by the SWC water supply study, which showed that
the spill factor adequately compensated for the amount of water that Big
Sky was proposing to draw on an annual basis.
Although the board agreed that the reservoir had been previously used
for domestic purposes, it was not a determining factor in its final
decision because no one came forward and said they had been impacted by
the village’s sale of the dam to Big Sky.
The Water Appeals Board also pointed out that there are no recorded
domestic dugouts which depend on flow from the reservoir for
As for the environmental concerns, the Board ruled that they were
beyond the scope of its jurisdiction.
Although the Appeals Board is supportive of the current process for
barn approvals, it did suggest that perhaps SERM and the Watershed
Authority should be more visible during the application, approval, and
In an interview on Thursday, April 17, Rama Mayor Darrell Dutchak said
he is very pleased with the decision.
“We were fairly confident that the decision would be in our
favor,” he stated. “But
it is certainly a relief to have the process complete.”
Back to top
to Hon. Clay Serby
Concerned Citizens for a Safe & Healthy Environment
May 10, 2002
Dear Hon. Serby:
On March 6, 2001 I wrote a letter to all elected MLAs in Saskatchewan and
stated the concerns regarding the continued promotion of Intensive Livestock
Operations (ILOs) in this province.
I want to inform you and all MLA's that the Big Sky Inc. hog barns in the
Rama area are polluting the countryside with toxic air emissions.
There must be an immediate curtailment of new factory hog barns. No
more open air lagoons for manure storage. Discontinue the use of
hormones and subtherapeutic antibiotics in animal feed.
The citizens who are affected by these industrial ILOs are not prepared
to tolerate the injury which is occurring to themselves and the environment.
The ILOs across teh country have become an environmental fiasco, a
political and financial scandal that raises questions about the strategy of
management of the agriculture policy in this country in regards to ILOs.
I am enclosing an article by Tom Spears from the Ottawa Citizen entitled
"Huge Pig Farms are Health Menace: Federal Report" from March 19,
Concerned Citizens for a Safe and Healthy Environment
Back to top
Rural Group Discusses Mega Hog
Issue With Serby, Belanger
By Jack Maluga
June 6, 2003
concerns and recommendations relating to mega hog operations were presented
during a recent meeting between a group of rural residents and two
provincial cabinet ministers in Regina.
delegation of 16 rural residents from nine east-central and north-eastern
rural municipalities met with Agriculture Minister,
Clay Serby and Environment Minister, Buckley Belanger on May 14th at
the Legislature. The rural delegation included farmers from the Quill
Lake-Watson, Wynyard, Foam Lake-Sheho, Rama, Churchbridge, Archerwill-Rose
Valley, Porcupine Plain and Whitewood regions. Most of the areas have been
chosen as locations for mega hog expansion, or have existing operations.
industrial hog operations under construction in Saskatchewan are 5,000 sow
production units. They consist of five huge barns, holding approximately
65,000 hogs, as well as a smaller boar barn. According to the developers,
they use 50 million gallons of water and generate 40 million gallons of
liquid manure annually.
raised at the meeting ranged from environmental concerns; to divisive
effects on communities; to the implications factory farms will have on
family farms. Mr. Serby was
told that small-scale hog production is as economically viable as mega
farms, but due to the government's promotion of large-scale operations,
small-scale operators are disappearing.
ministers were informed a mega hog operation is being developed in an area
internationally recognized for its diverse bird-habitat – the Quill Lakes.
Each year the Quill Lakes are used by nearly one million birds - they
are also a seasonal home to more than 150,000 shorebirds including the
endangered Piping Plover. The towns of Wynyard, Wadena and Foam Lake have
been actively promoting birding projects in the area in an attempt to
Serby was reminded that tourism should also play an important part in his
rural revitalization plans. It was pointed out to Mr. Belanger that concerns
over chemical changes to Big Quill Lake resulted in a full-scale
environmental impact assessment being done when a potassium sulphate plant
was built on the south shore of the lake in the 1980's – however, mega hog
operations in Saskatchewan have not yet had to undergo such an assessment.
concerns were also an important issue in the Whitewood area where a mega hog
operation near the Scissors Creek received provincial approval this spring.
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food have promised a two-foot dyke will be
built around the barn sites, but the potential for trouble if a manure spill
occurs and it reaches the Qu'Appelle River was raised. Mr. Serby was asked
to put a hold on construction until the site was re-assessed. The cabinet
ministers were told that approximately 15 families live in the proximity of
the proposed hog barns - some of which have plaques recognizing the fact the
land has been in their families for 100 years.
delegation from the Churchbridge-Langenburg area told Mr. Serby the RM of
Churchbridge had paid thousands of dollars for testing for suitable sites
for barns without the consent of their ratepayers and the RM would only be
repaid if the hog project went ahead.
was also expressed that a pilot project currently underway by the provincial
government and SARM could take approval of intensive livestock operations
out of the hands of municipalities. Mr. Serby and Belanger were told that a
mega hog project was not compatible with plans for attracting tourism to a
proposed mineral spa in the Langenburg area.
from the Foam Lake-Sheho area outlined the series of events that took place
in the RM of Foam Lake last winter, where a mega hog project was turned
down. They expressed concerns that mega hog industry officials sit on
committees that make decisions on how their industry is regulated. There are
no guarantees that the public's interests and concerns are addressed, the
Foam Lake group said. Industrial
farming is not economic growth, but destruction of a way of life, the
Belanger was asked why piezometer readings around earthen hog lagoons in
Rama (which measure possible leakage) are not available to the public, or
even to environment department officials. "The government sets them up
(mega hog operations) and then they regulate themselves," one farmer
Archerwill-Rose Valley delegation discussed a proposed 5,000-sow hog
operation in the RMs of Barrier Valley and Ponass Lake. They were concerned
that a questionnaire circulated at an informational meeting held April 9th
in Archerwill and Rose Valley was taken as an indication the public welcomed
the project. However, residents of the northern half of the RM of Barrier
Valley, closest to Tisdale, received no notice of the meetings at all. Local
residents have since formed a "Stop The Hogs Coalition" and
petitions are being circulated against the project in both RMs. A plebiscite
in the RM of Ponass Lake has been sent out to ratepayers and must be
returned by June 30th.
Serby was asked to leave the business of raising livestock to the farmers of
Saskatchewan. "Farmers are a versatile bunch, but family farms can't
compete with corporate farms - especially those funded by government money.
With pork prices as low as they are, these corporations are losing money,
and yet they plan to expand," a Rose Valley area resident said.
With the federal government suggesting farmers will have to prepare
individual environmental farm plans by the year 2008, Mr. Serby was asked
why his government was encouraging the unprecedented growth of the mega hog
industry - an industry whose environmental practices will soon be outdated,
if not outlawed.
issue was also raised by the delegation from Watson-Quill Lake, which asked
Mr. Serby to put a hold on the hog development in their RM until new
technology such as bio-digesters are available. The digesters, which are
used in Europe and on at least one Alberta Hutterite colony, remove methane
gas from manure and convert it to electricity. Water can be re-used, and
only a small amount of concentrated manure remains. However, their arguments
failed to sway Mr. Serby, who said Saskatchewan currently raises fewer
cattle than Alberta and fewer hogs than Manitoba.
At one point during the meeting he interjected,
"You're all telling me the same thing, and I've heard these
Belanger stated his department is not being pressured by Sask Agriculture to
approve sites that shouldn't be developed. He said they act independently of
Mr. Serby's department.