TORONTO (June 28) — The Ontario government's plan to clean the mercury-contaminated Wabigoon River system is welcome news, says the David Suzuki Foundation. The Ontario government announced it will spend $85 million to clean the mercury that has poisoned the people of Grassy Narrows First Nation and nearby Whitedog First Nation for generations. The English-Wabigoon watershed cleanup is expected to begin next year.
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Renowned scientist and broadcaster David Suzuki is visiting Grassy Narrows First Nation today on the heels of the government's announcement. The community invited him to hear how mercury contamination has devastated the community and the local environment. Grassy Narrows and neighbouring Wabaseemoong (Whitedog) First Nations are downstream from one of the worst toxic sites in Canada, the former Reed Paper mill in Dryden, Ontario.
In the 1960s, the company dumped more than 9,000 kilograms of untreated mercury waste into the Wabigoon River. Though the mill (under new ownership) has long since stopped using mercury, evidence indicates the toxic chemical is still leaching into the river from the former industrial site, poisoning fish, which the communities depend upon. Ninety per cent of people tested in Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong show evidence of acute mercury poisoning, including numbness in fingertips and lips, loss of coordination, trembling and other neuromuscular conditions.
The David Suzuki Foundation has been working with Grassy Narrows in support of the cleanup.
"The hopeful resolution to Grassy Narrows' nightmare is thanks to the people of Grassy Narrows. Elders, hunters and trappers, fishers, mothers and youth have campaigned tirelessly for decades to get environmental toxins cleaned from the river, so they can once again eat its fish and practise their culture without fear of getting sick," said David Suzuki Foundation Ontario and Northern Canada director general Faisal Moola.
"I met with Premier Kathleen Wynne earlier this year and was encouraged by her personal commitment to right a historic wrong at Grassy Narrows," David Suzuki said. "The people of Grassy Narrows have fought for more than 40 years to hear an Ontario premier commit to clean their river. The government needs to promptly implement a remediation plan with strict timelines, developed by Grassy Narrows and its science advisers."
The river cleanup, led by Grassy Narrows First Nation, is the first step. Grassy Narrows continues to call for a home for survivors in the community, a fair mercury compensation system, top quality health care and a permanent environmental health monitoring station.
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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Brendan Glauser, David Suzuki Foundation, 604 356-8829, firstname.lastname@example.org