SELLERS REPORT: Mercury rising in Grassy Narrows (Dec. 2014)

SELLERS REPORT: Mercury rising in Grassy Narrows (Dec. 2014)

Postby Oscar » Wed Jun 17, 2015 9:10 am

SELLERS REPORT: Mercury rising in Grassy Narrows (Dec. 2014)

( . . . Key Findings are below . . .)

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June 15, 2015 - 5:10 pm

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.
[ ... hlited.pdf ]

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. [ ... -1.3109261 ]

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."

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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

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Premier Wynne: Give Grassy Narrows A Mercury Free Future For Christmas
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We've got a few questions about Grassy Narrows
[ ... sy-narrows ]

Grassy Narrows requests environmental assessment of logging plan
[ ... gging-plan ]

Grassy Narrows To Resume Blockage If Clear-Cut Logging Operation Starts
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grassy narrows mercury
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Mark Calzavara's blog
Regional Organizer for On-PQ-Nunavut
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report prepared for the ANA-­‐Ontario Mercury Working Group prepared by Patricia Sellers, PhD December 2014 FINAL REPORT
[ ... hlited.pdf ]

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All quotes are from: Sellers, P. 2014. Human and Ecological Health in Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek (Grassy Narrows First Nation). Report prepared for the ANA‐Ontario Mercury Working Group. 61 p + appendices. Released June 15, 2015.
[ ... -FINAL.pdf ]

QUICK FACTS from the Sellers report on Grassy Narrows


1. Mercury levels are still unsafe.
2. Sediment mercury levels are in the highest risk category.
3. Mercury levels are high enough to trigger remediation.
4. Mercury levels are going up in some areas.
5. People are still sick from mercury, including children.

1. Mercury levels are still unsafe.
“preferred fish, sediment, and crayfish at surveyed sites remain elevated (half a century after the discharge of mercury began) with respect to both background and guideline levels” (p.51)
“In Clay Lake, the sediment mercury has is showing a stabilization trend at a level 8 to 20 times background levels (Sellers, 2005) whereas the latest reports of top predator fish mercury in this lake (Neff et al, 2012) are at a level, possibly a stabilizing one, that is 2 – 15 times above consumption guideline levels.” (p.52)
“[G]iven that mercury levels have not yet returned to normal levels at affected sites, earlier predictions that natural recovery alone would mean sustained levels in fish for decades have been realized.” (p.52)

2. Many areas have mercury at the highest risk level
"the sediment data show that both basins of Clay Lake, one upstream site on the Wabigoon River, and an estimate of the current levels of mercury in the Wabigoon River between Clay Lake and Dryden are above the FEL (frequent adverse effects level) established by Environment Canada and MDDEP.” (p.50)

3. Mercury levels are high enough to trigger remediation
“this places them above the FEL guideline established by the EC and MDDEP. (p.44)
“In the Environmental Risk Assessment used in the St. Lawrence Action Plan 2011-2026, sediments that exceed the FEL level trigger the decision for remediation and whether to do so by sediment containment or removal (as opposed to open water disposal), effectively ending the ERA [Environmental Risk Assessment] process for such sites." p.50
All quotes are from: Sellers, P. 2014. Human and Ecological Health in Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum
Anishinabek (Grassy Narrows First Nation). Report prepared for the ANA‐Ontario Mercury Working
Group. 61 p + appendices. Released June 15, 2015.
“FEL: Value used [by Environment Canada] to provide guidance for remediation decisions; the level above which adverse effects are anticipated in most benthic species; indication that the site should be remediated; above which open-water disposal prohibited & other management option should be sought.” (p.44)

4. Some mercury levels are going up
“In Separation Lake the 2000-2010 trend show an increase in mercury for walleye and northern pike (3-8%)” (p.31)
“In the south basin of Ball Lake, the mercury concentration in the surface sediment has been steadily increasing. This means that the sediment accumulating at the surface was higher in mercury in 2004 than it was in the 1970s (Sellers, 2008).” (p.34)
“Ball Lake and most likely all other downstream basins have the potential to graduate from the TEL (threshold effects level) and OEL levels (occasional adverse effects level) to a PEL (probable adverse effects) level over the long term.” (p.45)
“PEL: Value above which adverse biological effects is expected; used to provide guidance for remediation decisions; value above which in depth analysis of advantages vs. disadvantages of remediation should be undertaken.” (p.44)

5. People continue to be sick from mercury
“The people of Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek (ANA, also known as Grassy Narrows First Nation) were poisoned by mercury released into the Wabigoon-English River system in the 1960s.” (p. iv)
“people have been adversely affected for a few generations as a result of eating the fish,” (p.51)
“we know that children in ANA and WIN were diagnosed by the MDB with having symptoms consistent with mercury poisoning [between 1990 and 2001].” (p.18)
Takaoka et al, 2014 “showed that older (46 to 76 years) and younger (16 – 45 years) people of ANA show symptoms of mercury poisoning.” (p.25)
“To date, no ongoing surveillance program among children exposed to mercury prenatally has been referenced in the reviewed publications. (p.10)
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Re: SELLERS REPORT: Mercury rising in Grassy Narrows (Dec. 2

Postby Oscar » Sat Mar 04, 2017 10:20 am

Fisheries Act and UN convention require Trudeau to take action on English-Wabigoon River

[ ... goon-river ]

March 4, 2017 - 7:35 am

(PHOTO: The Council of Canadians was at the annual River Run event in Toronto in June 2016 demanding justice for Grassy Narrows.)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is obliged both through the Fisheries Act and international law to help clean-up the English-Wabigoon River.

The English-Wabigoon River was polluted by a Dryden, Ontario pulp and paper mill deliberately dumping 10 tonnes of mercury into the river system.

The Toronto Star has reported, "For the residents of Grassy Narrows First Nation who have fished Clay Lake [situated along the Wabigoon River], walleye is a dietary staple. Now a comprehensive analysis of provincial data conducted for the Star confirms what has long been suspected: the walleye they are eating are the most mercury-contaminated in the province. The mercury in an average meal of walleye from Clay Lake is 15 times the daily tolerable intake limit for adults, and about 40 times the limit for women of child-bearing age, pregnant women and children."

That article adds, "Physical symptoms of mercury poisoning include loss of muscle co-ordination, slurred speech and tunnel vision. Recent scientific research on the effects of the neurotoxin show the poisoning occurs at low levels previously thought harmless, and that fetuses are particularly vulnerable to cognitive damage."

While Trudeau had vowed in January to take action "once and for all", he now says it's "very much" Ontario's responsibility to do the clean-up. Grassy Narrows First Nation Chief Simon Fobister says, "How can Trudeau say that he is reconciling with First Nations while passing the buck on cleaning up an ongoing toxic leak that has plagued our health and undermined our culture for fifty years?"

The Canadian Press now reports, "Ottawa has an obligation under international law to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights at issue in Grassy Narrows, said Richard Pearshouse, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch in Geneva. Pearshouse, who paid a visit to Grassy Narrows First Nation in December, said Canada is a signatory to a brand new United Nations convention on mercury, known as the Minamata Convention. 'Hopefully quite soon Canada will ratify that convention and when it does, there will be new obligations under international law.'"

That article also notes, "Richard Lindgren, a lawyer with the Canadian Environmental Law Association, there are number of federal responsibilities that warrant further involvement, he said, including fisheries – relevant because of the ever-present dangers of mercury contamination in fish that swim in polluted waters. The federal Fisheries Act expressly prohibits the depositing of harmful substances into water populated by fish, including those species that support indigenous fisheries, Lindgren added."

On February 13, the Ontario government committed to a "comprehensive remediation action plan" for the river system, but no schedule has been announced, the remediation has not begun, and the work is not done.

The Council of Canadians first expressed its solidarity with the Grassy Narrows First Nation in April 2010.

For numerous blogs about the mercury contamination faced by the Grassy Narrows First Nation, please click here:
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Brent Patterson's blog
Political Director of the Council of Canadians
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