Time to remove mercury from polluted river in Grassy Narrows
(Queen’s Park) - After over 40 years of mercury poisoning, it’s time for action in Grassy Narrows.
“It’s unacceptable that the people of Grassy Narrows are continuing to suffer,” says GPO leader Mike Schreiner. “The Liberal government needs to act now, and make it a priority to lessen the effects of the mercury problems.”
Mercury levels are still rising fifty years after a Dryden pulp mill dumped its effluent into a northern Ontario watershed, according to a study commissioned by the provincial government and Grassy Narrows First Nation.
The report released Monday reveals just how little is known about the environmental and health consequences of the mercury that flowed freely into the English-Wabigoon water system between 1962 and 1970.
People in Grassy Narrows continue to suffer the effects of mercury poisoning, exhibiting symptoms such as the loss of motor function, tingling and weakness in limbs, difficulty speaking and swallowing.
Freshwater scientist, Patricia Sellers conducted the report and states that Mercury levels in the sediment in Clay Lake and parts of the Wabigoon River are twice the Canadian threshold for remediation. Mercury levels continue to rise in other area lakes where the people of Grassy Narrows continue to catch and eat fish.
Since the time of contamination only “natural recovery” has been undertaken.
“We need to take any reasonable means of lessening the mercury problems in Grassy Narrows, including physically removing mercury from polluted silt in the river system and limiting clear cut foresting in the area,” says Schreiner.
Leaders at Grassy Narrows First Nation want to see all logging near their community stopped as they fear it is adding to the problems associated with mercury contamination. Grassy Narrows First Nation Deputy Chief Randy Fobister says mercury contamination destroyed the community's commercial fishery in the 1970s. He says if clear cutting continues the local economy will never recover.
The Green Party of Ontario promotes and supports any reasonable means of mitigating the mercury problems in the Grassy Narrows and White Dog treaty lands, including the physical removal of mercury polluted silt in the river system and the limitation of clear-cut forestry practices in the Whiskey Jack Forest tract to those agreed upon by the First Nation concerned.