Exclusive: Experts raise concerns over Manitoba waterways

Two researchers testing water. Global News and CJOB 680 had water tested from 4 different sources.
Two researchers testing water. Global News and CJOB 680 had water tested from 4 different sources. Brittany Greenslade, Global News

There is a growing concern about the health of Manitoba’s lakes and ponds.

Water experts are calling for change and have said if action isn’t taken immediately the damages may not be able to be reversed, even going so far as to call it a “silent crisis.”

In 2013, the Global Nature Fund dubbed Lake Winnipeg the most threatened lake in the world.

Now researchers have said the problem goes further, and affects almost all of the province’s waterways.

Global News and 680 CJOB have teamed up to conduct phosphorous and nitrogen testing at four water spots in the Red River Basin

Water was tested from a retention pond north of Winnipeg, an area along the Red River at Lockport, a section of the floodway near highway 44 and a piece of the Red River south of the city.

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The results found higher than normal levels of both phosphorus and nitrogen.

“The phosphorus levels are about what I would expect what you would see this time of year… 0.25 mg per liter,” said Dr. Bill Buhay, a professor at the University of Winnipeg. ” They should be about 0.1 or less.”

At times, in some areas, the nitrogen levels can be found to be 100 times the level they should be.

“It’s very concerning because what the testing does show us it that it’s up to every one of us to help reduce the amount of phosphorus and other substances entering our waste water streams,” said Colleen Sklar, Executive Director of Lake Friendly.

Other recent tests conducted by researchers have found high levels of pharmaceuticals and artificial sweeteners.

“We use a lot of sugar in our diets and we use a lot of artificial things,” said Dr. Buhay.  “I think its telling to see that nothing else will eat them, nothing else will consume them.”

Experts said it’s hard to say if a tipping point has been reached, some believe we could already be past it.

However, all agreed, change needs to happen now before the affects are irreversible.


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