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Mercury rising in Grassy Narrows

Photo: Bill Fobister of Grassy Narrows First Nation

A new study says that mercury levels in Grassy Narrows are still rising some fifty years after a pulp mill dumped tonnes of mercury into the northern Ontario watershed.

The CBC reports “The report released Monday also reveals 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 loss of motor function, tingling and weakness in limbs, difficulty speaking and swallowing. 

Mercury levels in sediment in Clay Lake and parts of the Wabigoon River are twice the Canadian threshold for remediation and are on the rise in other area lakes where the people of Grassy Narrows continue to catch and eat fish, the report says.

The report’s 40 recommendations include:

  • Conduct comprehensive health and diet surveys at Grassy Narrows to see the effects of eating fish on health, including the impact on child development and aging-related neurodegenerative diseases. (The most recent Health Canada studies are 20 years old.)

  • A comprehensive discussion about remediation of the Wabigoon River that includes Grassy Narrows First Nation.

  • Examine the effects of logging on the mercury load in the area and investigate whether any effluent continues to flow into the river from the Dryden mill.

  • Review and evaluate existing guidelines for fish consumption and ensure they are communicated to community members in a culturally appropriate way.

  • Long-term monitoring of the mercury levels in all lakes that are popular among Grassy Narrows families for subsistence fishing.

  • Establish a community-based research station to co-ordinate all 40 recommendations in the report.”

For more information on Grassy Narrows please see our other blogs:

Grassy Narrows legal case against clearcut logging and respect for Treaty Right begins at the Supreme Court of Canada

Premier Wynne: Give Grassy Narrows A Mercury Free Future For Christmas

We’ve got a few questions about Grassy Narrows

Grassy Narrows requests environmental assessment of logging plan

Grassy Narrows To Resume Blockage If Clear-Cut Logging Operation Starts