Toronto Star – Ontario’s former environment minister called for a clean-up of mercury contaminating Grassy Narrows First Nation, historical cabinet memos obtained by the Star show. But nothing was done by the government of the day to clean up the polluted river and lakes, and more than 30 years later the fish that feed the community are still contaminated. The March 30, 1984, recommendation to cabinet from then-Environment Minister Andrew Brandt said the government should endorse a $2-3 million remediation plan to “cover the mercury sediments” in the nearby Clay Lake on the English-Wabigoon River, but hold off on the more disruptive and costly option of dredging the river system pending further study.
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.” The provincial government should not appear reluctant to take action on the report’s recommendations,” wrote a senior environment ministry staffer in a briefing note circulated within the department in the spring of 1984”. 37 years ago and the Indigenous people of Grassy Narrows First Nation and Wabaseemoong First Nation are still waiting – and dying!”