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Wastewater Treatment Upgrades Allow Expanded Hog Processing Capacity in Manitoba

by 5m Editor
15 March 2008, at 12:19pm

CANADA - New funding agreements announced last week will allow upgrades and expansion of industrial waste water treatment facilities in Brandon and Neepawa, Manitoba. The two agreements, announced last week (March 7) involve the federal and provincial governments, the City of Brandon, the Town of Neepawa, Maple Leaf Consumer Foods and Hytek Limited.

As part of a $15.5 million deal in Brandon, the province will contribute $7.8 million, including $3.9 million allocated under its share of the federal government’s Community Development Trust, with the City of Brandon and Maple Leaf kicking in the balance to expand wastewater treatment capacity.

The province will also contribute $11.8 million, including $5.9 million from the Community Development Trust, to assist with the construction of a new industrial wastewater treatment facility in Neepawa.

Brandon Upgrades Allow Full Second Shift at Maple Leaf

The expanded wastewater treatment capacity in Brandon will allow Maple Leaf to increase the number of hogs it processes at the Brandon plant to 86,000 head per week, completing its full second shift capacity.

“Our plan calls to add about 650 to 675 additional jobs here in Brandon at our pork processing plants and that total will come by the conclusion of 2009 when we have a full second shift up and running,“ says Maple Leaf Consumer Foods president Rick Young. “The increased capacities will coincide with the waste water treatment capabilities. That has to come first so we would have that in place probably first quarter of 2009.“

Upgrades Allow Springhill Farms to Expand to Full Licensed Capacity

Meanwhile improvements to Neepawa’s industrial wastewater treatment facility will allow Hytek Limited to move forward with a $35 million investment to increase processing capacity at its Springhill Farms processing plant by 75 percent. Currently Springhill processes about 800 thousand hog per year, well short of the limits stipulated by the plant’s environmental license.

“One of the limitations today to additional capacity is the existing wastewater treatment facility,“ says Springhill Farms CEO Guy Baudry. “There is not an ability to treat additional discharges from the plant. Therefore we have been working on securing a new wastewater treatment facility that has the additional capacity and also the ability to meet the new environmental regulations of the current government.“

He adds the improved wastewater treatment will allow the facility to increase capacity from 800,000 to a projected 1.4 million head per year.

Construction of the new Neepawa wastewater treatment facility is expected to begin in early 2009 following an environmental approval process with completion expected by the fall of 2009.

200 New Jobs Expected at Springhill Farms

The Springhill Farms expansion will result in the creation of about 200 new jobs. “We’re looking at two predominant phases of development here at Springhill Farms,“ Baudry explains. “The first phase, which will occur primarily in 2008, will create an additional 100 to 125 new jobs at the plant and, with the assurance of new wastewater treatment capacity in the fall of 2009, an additional 75 jobs will be created.“

Expanded Processing Capacity Key to Avoiding Trade Problems

Manitoba’s Minister of Agriculture Food and Rural Initiatives Rosann Wowchuk notes expanding the province’s hog processing capacity will better prepare the province to respond to potential trade action, including the effects of Country of Origin Labelling (COOL).

“The BSE crisis taught us the American border can close at a moment’s notice. Millions of weanlings are exported to the United States every year but that could come to an abrupt stop should the border close to trade. We need to ensure we have the processing capacity in place to help manage any future border closure or trade action.“

Manitoba Pork Council chairman Karl Kynoch points out, “It gives producers more opportunity to keep their animals here at home and allows more processing capacity which is something we need in this province. It will go a long way toward reducing the risk of trade action. This province ships a lot of live pigs into the U.S. that are finished there or go direct to slaughter.“

He adds, Country of Origin Labelling. which is slated to come into effect in September, is the other issue expanded processing capacity will help address. “Some of the plants in the U.S. are now saying that they’re not going to buy hogs from Canada, or hogs that originate out of Canada as weanlings. It’s very important that we get slaughtering capacity increased here to reduce some of that risk and some of the pressure it creates at the border.“

Despite Expanded Processing COOL Remains a Concern

Kynoch concedes, even with the expanded processing capacity at Maple Leaf and Springhill Farms, hogs will still need to go south. COOL will still be a concern but any reduction in the number of hogs going south will ease the problem.

“If we were able to process all of our hogs that are produced here, COOL would not be an issue because we would already have a home grown product that already has a Canadian label.“

The benefits of expanded wastewater treatment and increased pork processing capacity are expected to spin beyond the pork industry throughout the two communities in terms of both the economy and the environment.

Upgrades Mean Clean Wastewater Discharges

Neepawa Mayor Bob Durston says the federal and provincial funding to move forward with expanded wastewater treatment is great news. “With that now in place it means that we, as well as the Maple Leaf plant in Brandon, will have the cleanest wastewater going back into the river of anyone because we’re going to have one of the first new industrial wastewater treatment plants that meet the new standards for effluent discharge into any waterways.“

The new maximum limits of 15 parts per million for nitrogen and one part per million for phosphorus are extremely stringent. Durston notes this is the first time limits have been set for phosphorus discharge and, while there have been guidelines in place for nitrogen discharge, those limits have been tightened.

New Jobs Create Additional Economic Spin-off

The jobs that will be created as Springhill Farms increases its processing capacity are also being welcomed.

Durston notes, “They’re going to be moving from 350 to 550 employees so there are 200 new additional jobs being created. That has a major impact throughout the community, not only within Neepawa with the need for additional housing, but also puts stress on the housing availability within the area.“

“When we look at communities like Eden, Arden, Brookdale and Minnedosa, communities within probably a 45 minute drive of Neepawa, there’s going to be economic spin-offs for them. With the additional jobs that brings education into play. It also provides opportunities for other entrepreneurs and businesses to provide retail or other trade services to families that are going to be moving into the area.“

Brandon mayor Dave Burgess agrees. “When you have jobs like this they’re non-competing jobs. They definitely are not taking jobs from other places. They actually create new employment that add to the population.“

Improvements Offer Opportunity for Future Growth

Burgess also sees opportunities for other corporate citizens, opening the door for further expansion in Brandon’s industrial park and even more jobs and more spin-off benefits.

He believes we have not only successful economic development but also environmental sustainability.

“It’s very important for Brandon and our region to be good environmental stewards, set the example of what we would like to see in the future. This investment really goes a long way to serving us long term.