"This report by The … Hundreds of people died from resulting mercury poisoning. Grassy Narrows declared a state of emergency over its unsafe drinking water in 2015, after a boil-water advisory had already been in place for nearly two years, as it tried to get more information from the federal government about the safety … "It was deteriorating his muscles in his body and pretty soon he was in bed again and we had to take care of him like he was a little child.". Residents of Grassy Narrows First Nation, about 100 kilometres northeast of Kenora, Ont., have grappled with long-standing mental and physical health issues due to toxic mercury levels in the nearby English-Wabigoon River. "If we don't do something to stop the source...the problem will continue for many, many more decades.". The plant used mercury to manufacture chlorine, which was in turn used to bleach paper at the Dryden Paper Company Ltd. The water was deemed fit for human consumption again just this October, which Fobister said came after years of work on water treatment facilities and local pipes. You can, 'Believe in science': EU kicks off COVID-19 vaccine campaign, Pornhub removes all content by unverified users, says site has been unfairly targeted, The Nature Conservancy of Canada suggests leaving your old Christmas tree in your backyard, Update on eHealth Cyberattack and Potential Privacy Breach, Detailed technology presentation heard by Cornerstone board members, First quarter financial report shows Cornerstone on track. Grassy Narrows’ First Nation community has garnered ongoing media attention for the impacts of the mercury contamination in their watershed. The federal government is letting Ontario take the lead on mercury contamination in Grassy Narrows First Nation, Health Minister Jane Philpott indicated Wednesday -- … Seven new COVID deaths in Saskatchewan, 559 new cases, 500 ... Have the Weyburn Review delivered to your Inbox every week! Decades of government inaction. "I hope it'll become a state-of-the-art place where we can study the effects of mercury poisoning," he told a news conference last week. A report commissioned by Grassy Narrows First Nation to investigate the mercury contamination found that cleaning up the community’s water supply is already feasible. "Currently there is no evidence to suggest that mercury levels in the river system are such that any remediation, beyond continuing natural recovery is warranted or advisable," Gary Wheeler said in an email to CBC News. Two forest-product companies are on the hook for maintaining a mercury waste site near Ontario’s Grassy Narrows First Nation, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled. High levels of mercury contamination in the English-Wabigoon River system, discovered in 1970, caused very high levels of mercury exposure among people residing in the First Nations communities of Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong. The government promised to fund the building of a new water treatment plant in the community next to the mercury treatment centre. They also found two other disinfectant byproducts considered possible carcinogens. The damaging effects are still seen today. Fobister said his community of about 1,200 residents continues to struggle with tainted water long after the initial mercury contamination took place. Opposition critics said they will wait to see it take concrete shape before offering praise. Several Japanese doctors who had been involved in studying Minamata disease in Japan travelled to Canada to investigate the mercury poisoning in these people. Meanwhile, Fobister said he fears his community will bear the consequences of the mercury contamination until the river is cleaned up, noting such a process could prolong the ordeal for several more generations of Grassy Narrows residents. After six decades of suffering the effects of a mercury contamination in the English-Wabigoon River in northwest Ontario, Grassy Narrows is hoping more funding for a treatment home the federal government promised to build will provide long-term care for hundreds battling chronic health problems. Grassy Narrows First Nation, or the Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation, is a small First Nations community in northwestern Ontario. Dryden is located about 130 km upstream from Grassy Narrows. "The problem is being perpetuated," he said. Fobister said his community of about 1,200 residents continues to struggle with tainted water long after the initial mercury contamination took place. Between 1962 and 1970, the company dumped an estimated 9,000 kg of untreated mercury into the English-Wabigoon river system, upstream from Grassy Narrows and Whitedog First Nations. Mercury cleanup methods recommended for the English-Wabigoon, and rejected by the government in the 1980s, have since been seen to work, successfully, at an estuary in Maine, Rudd said. New technology has made remediation even more viable, he said. "We've seen the announcements, but we haven't seen the outcomes," he said. The contamination closed the commercial fishery that was the foundation of the economy at Grassy Narrows First Nation. Sellers was interviewed about her 2015 research report on the contamination of the river and the effects of mercury on people of Grassy Narrows. Two weeks ago, a test found lead in the tap water at the community's school, Fobister said. Now, Ottawa has greatly increased the size of the commitment. A river poisoned with mercury. The new plan in the fiscal update would see the feds devote $28 million to the projects in 2021-22, $32 million the following year, and $70 million in each of the next two years. So have many in Wabaseemoong Independent Nations, also known as Whitedog First Nation, about 130 kilometres away. "The promises are great, but we need to see solutions, we need to see actions, we need to see these problems actually solved," Conservative MP Gary Vidal, his party's critic for Indigenous Services, said in an interview. By: Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press Posted: 12/6/2020 6:06 AM Fobister said his community of about 1,200 residents continues to struggle with tainted water long after the initial mercury contamination took place. With little money and no local grocery store, residents have continued to eat the fish throughout the years. Meanwhile, Fobister said he fears his community will bear the consequences of the mercury contamination until the river is cleaned up, noting such a process could prolong the ordeal for several more generations of Grassy Narrows residents. What follows is a statement released by Minister Murray and David Zimmer, Ontario’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. In a CBC News audio report, Dr. Water bottles are seen at the local water supply site on the Grassy Narrows First Nation, in northwestern Ontario, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. In 1970, the Ontariogovernment ordered th… "He was terminally ill with the mercury poisoning that was dumped in our waters," his aunt Lorenda Kokopenace said. The federal government committed up to $19.5 million to each community for the construction of facilities to meet the needs of residents living with methylmercury poisoning. Why is Japan studying mercury poisoning when Canada isn't? The fiscal update said the funding, set to start flowing in fiscal 2021-22, would allow community members from both Wabaseemong and Grassy Narrows, also known as Asubpeeschoseewagong, to stay close to home while receiving treatment. "It's great news for a whole community … We're finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel.". Grassy Narrows and Whitedog First Nations In the late 1960s, people in the Grassy Narrows and Whitedog First Nations populations started to suffer symptoms of mercury poisoning. Miller pegged the timeline to finish the buildings at between 18 and 36 months. Tap water that is contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals. The contamination closed the commercial fishery that was the foundation of the economy at Grassy Narrows First Nation. "We made these recommendations in the 1980s and our report was put on the shelf.". Former government scientist John Rudd, lead author of the report, described official inaction as “frustrating,” while noting, “We made these recommendations in the 1980s and our report was put on the shelf.” Grassy Narrows First Nation received a settlement in 1985 from the Government of Canada and the Reed Paper Company that bought-out the Dryden Pulp and Paper Company and its sister-company Dryden Chemical Company. Grassy Narrows is in the spotlight again following the release today of the latest study to find the decades-old mercury contamination in the waterways can be cleaned up, and should be cleaned … ", Last week, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller described the lack of action on the local mercury contamination as "an aberration in our history.". It is a priority for CBC to create a website that is accessible to all Canadians including people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive challenges. The provincial government has reviewed Rudd's new report but disagrees with it, according to a spokesperson for Ontario's Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. Fobister said a water test showed chemical compounds known trihalomethanes (THMs) that form when the chlorine used to disinfect water reacts with natural organic matter such as vegetation and dead leaves. After years of advocacy by the communities, Ottawa reached agreements with both Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong earlier this year. Rudd said the source of the ongoing contamination needs further study, but the feasibility of remediation does not. Japanese experts in mercury poisoning have expressed concerns, CBC's Journalistic Standards and Practices. He's back looking at the river again. A First Nation of about 650 people near Ontario’s border with Manitoba, Grassy Narrows’ water was contaminated by tonnes of mercury dumped into its water system by an upstream paper mill. "From birth, even today, you get stuff that affects the nerves," Fobister said. Natural recovery stalled 30 years ago, Rudd said, noting that levels of mercury in some waterways in the area are five to 10 times "what they should be.". "What we found out quite quickly was that there was no trust between Grassy Narrows and the government of Canada, and in some senses, rightly so," he said. Grassy Narrows First Nations chief hails more funding for mercury treatment centre. The possibility of remediation was first studied in the 1980s by a government research team that included John Rudd. The people of Grassy Narrows First Nation in northwest Ontario have been hard-hit by mercury poisoning, after the government allowed a pulp mill to dump 10 tons of waste into a river in the 1960s. Water bottles are seen at the local water supply site on the Grassy Narrows First Nation, in northwestern Ontario, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. Closed Captioning and Described Video is available for many CBC shows offered on CBC Gem. "When the fish are healthy, the land is healthy, and maybe, maybe then the youth, 50 years from now, they'll have good health. Miller said previous plans for treatment facilities were delayed as Indigenous communities pushed for more comprehensive federal funding. Community members in Grassy Narrows are still dealing with the legacy of mercury contamination, which is related to the bleaching of paper at the Dryden mill upstream between 1962 and 1970, when an estimated nine to 10 tonnes of mercury were released into the water. "Our community members have suffered for so long," Grassy Narrows First Nation Chief Randy Fobister said in a recent interview. The cleanup could cost "several tens of millions of dollars," Rudd said. But he said community members are still leery of using tap water, relying instead on shipments of bottled water delivered to the community each week. OTTAWA — New money for a treatment centre for those living with the effects of chronic mercury poisoning comes as a ray of hope for a northern Ontario First Nation that has spent the past six decades in the shadow of a decades-old water contamination scandal. Grassy Narrows … Grassy Narrows: Why Ontario decided not to clean up mercury, Wynne won't commit to Grassy Narrows mercury cleanup, Mercury levels still rising near Grassy Narrows, report says. The contamination damaged the health and livelihood of multiple generations on Grassy Narrows … Mercury Contamination in Grassy Narrows « Grassy Narrows worries about fate of Trudeau Liberals’ promised treatment home “I Wanted to Be Beautiful—Or, at Least, Clean”: What It’s Like to Grow Up Without Running Water » This site is maintained by supporters working with Grassy Narrows organizers. Your support is vital to helping us provide free local news. "It affects the youth (with) common signs of symptoms like what you get from mercury poisoning like rashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson, Seven new COVID deaths in Saskatchewan, 559 new cases, 500 recoveries. "When the fish are healthy, the land is healthy, and maybe, maybe then the youth, 50 years from now, they'll have good health.". Box 500 Station A Toronto, ON Canada, M5W 1E6. The province says its ongoing monitoring of the facility shows no evidence of leaching. Moreover, in June 2017, the Ontario government pledged $85 million to clean up the industrial mercury contamination. The Mercury Care Home would provide live-in care for 22 community members of any age who are suffering from mercury poisoning and are not well enough to live at home, but want to stay close to their families in Grassy Narrows. That points to an ongoing source of contamination, possibly leaching from the old chemical plant, Rudd said. "Part of that trust is putting the money away in a trust (fund) to be used for the community to treat their people, so that they can live in dignity.". The board was established in 1985 as part of an out-of-court settlement with the federal government, Ontario and the two paper companies involved in the contamination — Reed Incorporated and Great Lakes Forest Products Limited. He said he hopes to see both projects begin in the spring. John Rudd is a research scientist who examined the mercury pollution in the English - Wabigoon river system 30 years ago. He said his community will allow construction workers to enter the community despite the fear of COVID-19. Fobister said ground testing is already taking place in the area where the two facilities should be built. To date, 1,064 people from Grassy Narrows and nearby Wabaseemoong (formerly Whitedog) First Nations have applied for compensation for the health impacts of mercury poisoning, according to the Mercury Disability Board. Reed Paper in Dryden, Ont., dumped chemicals in the river in the 1960s and early 1970s, resulting in mercury poisoning among First Nations people who ate fish caught in the area. He's the lead author of the new research commissioned by Grassy Narrows First Nation and released on Monday. Audience Relations, CBC P.O. Canada’s Supreme Court sided with Ontario Friday on who bears responsibility for remediating a mercury waste disposal site on Ontario’s Wabigoon and English rivers. It is feasible to clean up some of the decades-old mercury contamination in Ontario's English-Wabigoon River system near Grassy Narrows First Nation, according to new research by three experts in the field. Japanese experts in mercury poisoning have expressed concerns that the board's criteria for compensation are overly restrictive. McGill Sociological Review, Volume 4 (February 2014): 43-66 Natalia Ilyniak University of Manitoba Abstract: Using an environmental injustice framework, this paper explores how the case of mercury poisoning in Grassy Narrows,an Anishinaabe community in Northwestern Ontario, exists as part of broader colonial processes in Canada. The fall economic statement released last week saw the Liberal government earmark $200 million up to fiscal 2024-25, plus $300,000 ongoing, to support the building and operation of mercury treatment centres in both communities. The contamination at Grassy Narrows is eerily similar to that of the Japanese fishing town of Minimata, where some 27 tons of mercury were dumped into the bay over a period of nearly four decades. Grassy Narrows declared a state of emergency over its unsafe drinking water in 2015, after a boil-water advisory had already been in place for nearly two years, as it tried to get more information from the federal government about the safety of its water. Drawing upon primary and secondary sources, as well as … She is the lead author on a March 2017 report that documented large levels (many times the background level) of mercury downstream of the chlor-alkali plant and low concentrations upstream of the plant. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2020. For almost 50 years, the river system—a foundational element of the Grassy Narrows culture—-that the community relies on for food and water has been contaminated with mercury as a result of industrial pollution. Grassy Narrows declared a state of emergency over its unsafe drinking water in 2015, after a boil-water advisory had already been in place for nearly two years, as it tried to get more information from the federal government about the safety of its water. "It has been frustrating," Rudd said. Grassy Narrows elder: ‘When you have mercury you have it for life’ – Dec 3, 2019 Bowater, which eventually became Resolute, filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009. Fobister said his community of about 1,200 residents continues to struggle with tainted water long after the initial mercury contamination took place. Hundreds of residents have suffered chronic health problems related to mercury exposure since the 1960s, when a chemical plant at the Reed Paper mill in Dryden, Ont., dumped 9,000 kilograms of mercury into the river community members rely on for fishing. Find out what's happening in your community and submit your own local events. 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