Winnipeg MP says federal government willing to help tackle Lake Winnipeg pollution

Lake Winnipeg at Gimli. Sam Thompson / Global News

Help could be on the way to update the North End Sewage Treatment Plant and fight pollution in Lake Winnipeg.

The Lake Winnipeg Foundation, an environmental non-governmental organization, said the city is the single largest contributor of phosphorus in the lake, at around five per cent.

Winnipeg South MP Terry Duguid, parliamentary secretary to the minister of environment and climate change, told 680 CJOB the federal government is willing to do its part to tackle the problem, but the North End plant only serves as a starting point.

Duguid said the province has “incredible” water resources, but in light of climate instability, major steps need to be taken by all levels of government.

“Water is a shared responsibility – federal, provincial, municipal, Indigenous,” said Duguid.

“We’ve all got to put our shoulders to the wheel and work together to solve some of the water challenges that we face, particularly in Lake Winnipeg, which is in pretty dire straits.”

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Duguid is involved with the new Canada Water Agency, a federal project to keep waterways safe, clean and well-managed across the country.

“What this water agency will help us do is co-ordinate those efforts… work with the provinces, work with municipalities, work with Indigenous governments to focus and co-ordinate the effort,” said Duguid.

“We believe while we have some tensions with the provinces and municipalities on some issues, I think all orders of government are really interested and committed to managing our water resources much better.

“In the case of Lake Winnipeg, we really have arrived at crisis levels of environmental concern.”

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The foundation’s executive director Alexis Kanu said the government’s support comes at a good time, as Manitobans are quickly becoming aware of the growing problems on the lake, Canada’s sixth-largest.

“What we’re seeing in the past year is certainly the concern of citizens,” said Kanu, “because their experiences on the lake are changing.

“We had some pretty bad algae blooms on the lake this summer and people noticed, and people are calling for action now.

Kanu said efforts are underway to advance phosphorus removal at the North End plant at the same time as larger-scale discussions to come up with overall solutions to preserve the lake.

“No one’s going to solve this alone,” she said. “We all need to come to the table, and that includes government and it includes citizens.

“We’ve seen just an incredible surge of engagement from our membership… and that is what gives me the most hope. We’re bringing solutions forward, but until the people really demand them, they won’t be implemented. I do feel the momentum is building and continues to build into 2020, and that there are good things ahead of us.”

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