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Ontario ignored own scientific advice to clean up mercury at Grassy Narrows

Another scandal has just come to light in the tragic mercury poisoning of Grassy Narrows First Nation.

The Toronto Star reported yesterday that the Ontario government was advised by its own Minister of the Environment in 1984 that it should remediate the contaminated areas – and that a test of the recommended remediation technique was shown to reduce mercury levels in fish by tenfold!

The Ontario government ignored the recommendation back then and continues to stand behind its decision that allowing the waters to naturally recover from the toxic poison is the best option.

From the Star:

What had prompted the former environment minister’s advice was a scientific report by the 1983 Canada-Ontario Steering Committee on the English-Wabigoon River System. The report said the mercury had contaminated sediments in the surrounding rivers and lakes and that the fish would be contaminated for generations if the mercury wasn’t cleaned up. (Today, one meal of Walleye from Clay Lake contains up to 150 times the safe dose of mercury recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.)… The committee recommended, among other things, to place clean sediment in the water so that it settles on the bottom of Clay Lake to stabilize the mercury-contaminated sediment — a method called resuspension — as well as some dredging of the river. A small pilot project done for the 1983 report tested the method of resuspension in Clay Lake and found it reduced mercury levels in fish “by ten times.” ”

This revelation follows last week’s investigative report by The Star detailing how the Ontario government neglected to investigate reports of an illegal mercury dump upstream from Grassy Narrows for over seven months- until reporters started pressing them about it. 

Premier Wynne has sent a team to test the waters and probe the ground for the illegal dump. But she still has not committed to cleaning up the waters upstream of Grassy Narrows.

The people of Grassy Narrows continue to suffer from mercury poisoning – exhibiting symptoms such as loss of motor function, tingling and weakness in their limbs, and difficulty walking, speaking and swallowing – some fifty years after the issue first came to light.

Please take a moment now to sign this letter telling Premier Wynne she must finally bring justice to the people of Grassy Narrows who have been waiting and suffering for decades.

The letter calls on her to:

  • provide the best possible healthcare for mercury survivors

  • compensate those who have been impacted

  • fund an environmental health monitoring station run by the people of Grassy Narrows

  • monitor pollution sources and remediate the mercury contamination in the English-Wabigoon River system

  • end corporate logging without community authorization

For numerous blogs by Brent Patterson, Michael Butler, Meera Karunananthan and myself on the Grassy Narrows First Nation struggle for water justice, please click here.