- Created on Wednesday, 17 June 2015 00:16
Globe and Mail Editorial
From 1962 to 1970, Reed Paper’s pulp and chemical mill at Dryden, Ont., near the Manitoba border, dumped its waste into the Wabigoon River and on into the English River and ultimately Hudson Bay. That effluent contained mercury – which was used for bleaching paper. By one estimate, 9,000 kilograms of methyl mercury were put into the river system.
So the mercury in turn found its way into the fish that were the major staple of the people of the remote Grassy Narrows and Whitedog reserves. Severe neurological and birth defects resulted. The nearest major hospital is in Winnipeg, a three-hour drive.
The mercury poisoning was recognized long ago, but the two First Nations understandably continued to eat their local fish and drink the water from their lakes and rivers.
A similar horror was detected in Japan in the city of Minamata in 1956, and it was Japanese scientists who ascertained in 1975 that Grassy Narrows was suffering from a version now called Ontario Minamata disease.
The people of Grassy Narrows were financially compensated, with about $17-million, in 1985, but that’s far from being the end of the story.
It has now emerged that the mercury levels in parts of the English-Wabigoon river system are actually rising, 45 years later. In some areas, the mercury content is twice the threshold for remediation. One approach, called “natural recovery,” is evidently not enough. Natural recovery appears to mean doing very little or nothing and waiting for the ecosystem to cleanse itself – laissez-faire in a literal sense.
Other links on this story:
- Created on Wednesday, 27 May 2015 09:19
Show your support for increased protection of the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Greenbelt by Thursday, May 28th.
The 2015 review of the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, Greenbelt Plan, Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and Niagara Escarpment Plan is underway.
These vital areas support healthy communities in southern Ontario by providing food, clean water and wildlife habitat - yet they are still under threat from urban sprawl, contaminated fill, quarries and new highway development.
Please click on the link above to send a message to the government - your voice will make a difference!
Photo courtesy of Kim Lowes.
- Created on Monday, 30 March 2015 15:30
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
In a joint statement issued today, 16 social justice organizations, faith groups, trade unions, and environmental organizations are calling on Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to immediately withdraw the province’s 10 year plan for clearcut logging on the traditional territory of the Grassy Narrows First Nation.
The organizations are particularly alarmed by the province’s refusal to conduct an environmental impact assessment of its logging plans, despite acknowledgement that runoff from clearcutting could lead to the introduction of more mercury into the river system.
In the 1960s, the province allowed an upstream pulp and paper mill to dump massive quantities of mercury into the river. The river system has never been cleaned up and the people of Grassy Narrows are still dealing with a severe health crisis.
- Created on Friday, 27 February 2015 21:42
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Toronto, ON – This afternoon the provincial government launched the much anticipated public review of the plans that protect the Oak Ridges Moraine, Niagara Escarpment and Greenbelt. This review is an important opportunity to strengthen these plans to further protect water, nature and communities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
"When these plans were first introduced over 10 years ago, they represented the leading edge in conservation planning and protection of our invaluable land and water resources," says Debbe Crandall, policy advisor for Save the Oak Ridges Moraine (STORM) Coalition. “This review positions the province to re-commit to a strong environmental agenda by strengthening these plans and eliminating policy gaps that have emerged, with the goal of leaving a protected landscape for the next generation of Ontarians,” she adds.
- Created on Monday, 19 January 2015 11:39
Earthroots says scientists’ comments in 2010 reveal ‘heated debate’ about the mercury impact of clear-cutting on fish and human health.
The Star, Raveena Aulakh
Ontario’s fisheries biologists were scathing about a guide approved in 2010 that laid out conditions for controversial clear-cut logging across the province, with some calling it a “big step backwards,” according to documents obtained through freedom of information requests.
When a regional director with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry complained about its inadequate review process, he was told there was pressure from senior management and industry to move fast.
Four years after the guide was approved, Ontario gave the go-ahead to its 10-year provincial logging plan one year ago.
Environmental agency Earthroots obtained the documents from the ministry a few days after the province rejected a request from Grassy Narrows, a First Nations reserve about 80 kilometres north of Kenora, for an individual environmental assessment into the impact of clear-cut logging on that community.
- Created on Monday, 05 January 2015 23:53
Thanks to the support from people like you, Earthroots was able to achieve numerous conservation victories in 2014:
Grassy Narrows – We convinced EACOM, one of Ontario's largest lumber companies, to avoid using conflict wood from Grassy Narrows. Read the article in The Star here.
Temagami – Earthroots and our partners brought all old growth logging in Temagami to a standstill for six months with a request for an Individual Environmental Assessment.
Wolf Lake – Mining claims in the Wolf Lake Forest Reserve began expiring for the first time in 15 years thanks to pressure from our Wolf Lake Coalition. Visit the Save Wolf Lake website here.
Wolves – We re-launched the Wolves Ontario campaign to build on past successes for improved grey and eastern wolf management (look for our new Wolves Ontario website in 2015!).
Oak Ridges Moraine – Through major media coverage, Earthroots brought much needed attention to the issue of contaminated soil being dumped on the Moraine. Read the article in The Star here.
Tools for Change – Earthroots and our partners hosted 20 training workshops and through the program over 400 people developed their skills to advocate for social and environmental justice this year. Visit the Tools for Change website here.
Thank you for your support - we wish you and yours all the best in the New Year!
- Created on Monday, 29 December 2014 15:27
Science indicates that clearcuts will deepen the tragedy of mercury poisoning
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Listen to the piece on CBC's radio program, Up North.
Grassy Narrows – On the night before Christmas Grassy Narrows First Nation received notice that Ontario is rejecting the community’s request for an Individual Environmental Assessment of the mercury impacts from the controversial final plan for clearcut logging on their homeland. Grassy Narrows is concerned that the planned clearcut logging will harm the health of their families by raising mercury poison levels in local fish – a traditional staple.
Ontario's logging plan makes no mention of mercury, and contains no special measures to account for the fact that Grassy Narrows’ homeland is the site of Canada’s most infamous case of mercury poisoning arising from 9,000 kg of mercury that was dumped into their river by a paper mill upstream in the 1960’s. Scientific studies indicate that clearcut logging in the boreal forest can raise mercury in fish to unsafe levels.
“Ontario has ignored our voices and is planning to force more devastating clearcuts on our people without even applying their own Individual Environmental Assessment process,” said Joseph Fobister, a Grassy Narrows land-user and businessman. “It makes me sad that our people will become even sicker if the government allows the logging industry to poison the fish that we eat.”
“I am disheartened by this hurtful decision,” said Chief Roger Fobister Sr. of Grassy Narrows. “It seems that our health and our culture do not matter to the government as they attempt to force their clearcut plans on us. The only honourable way forward here is to work together to gain our agreement before our land and water are used.”
- Created on Wednesday, 10 December 2014 10:03
At high noon on a beautiful November day, close to a hundred Ontarians gathered at Hart House’s Great Hall to acknowledge the significant contribution that five individuals have made to the protection of the Oak Ridges Moraine.
Through their work to protect this significant ecological feature, Glenn De Baeremaeker, Debbe Crandall, Amber Ellis, Steve Gilchrist, and Caroline Schultz are characterized by an enthusiastic commitment to the values which demonstrate that possibility does indeed grow in Ontario’s Greenbelt.
The natural hydrological system of the Oak Ridges Moraine is vital to the health and well-being of Ontarians. About 40 significant rivers and streams flow south to Lake Ontario from their headwaters in the Oak Ridges Moraine, providing clean water for millions of Ontarians.
A special congratulations goes out to these five winners for their steadfast dedication to this critical feature of the Ontario landscape.
- Created on Monday, 20 October 2014 11:56
With lax rules and no tracking system, Ontario sits idly while Toronto’s contaminated dirt is dumped in the countryside.
Toronto’s construction boom is unearthing massive volumes of soil contaminated with dangerous heavy metals and petroleum, but it’s nearly impossible to know where the dirt is going because Ontario doesn’t track it.
Instead, thousands of tonnes of toxic earth taken to prime farmland from downtown condominium projects are usually discovered accidentally — by neighbours who report bad odours from soil that is supposed to be “clean.”
Long-term, experts warn of contamination of agricultural land and groundwater, often in the Greenbelt or Oak Ridges Moraine.
Now, groups like Lakeridge Citizens for Clean Water, Earthroots and Save the Oak Ridges Moraine are demanding the tough regulations of a “clean soil act.” They’re seeking rigorous laws that include soil tracking, a definition for “clean” dirt and rules to govern where contaminants are taken.
“The GTA is surrounded by the best farming land and drinking water sources and we will be polluting it for generations if the government continues to turn a blind eye to this problem,” said Earthroots’ Josh Garfinkel.
- Created on Sunday, 05 October 2014 18:46
- Created on Monday, 18 August 2014 22:05
New research from the University of Guelph lends support to protecting an old-growth forest in Sudbury, Ont.
The study, conducted by researchers from the School of Environmental Sciences and Guelph’s Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, examined the lichen communities in the Wolf Lake stand of trees in northern Ontario. Lichens consist of a fungus and a photosynthetic partner, normally green algae.
The Wolf Lake stand is the largest old-growth red pine forest in the world, but is threatened by active mining leases and claims. Wolf Lake is located 50 km northeast of downtown Sudbury. Trees as old as 300 years have been found there.
“Old-growth pine forests are complex systems and contain much more biodiversity than meets the eye,” said Guelph environmental sciences professor Madhur Anand, one of the study’s authors.
“That biodiversity translates directly into all kinds of ecosystem services. Lichens are an often-ignored aspect of biodiversity, but can be important for many things from indicating pollution levels to providing food for other species.”
- Created on Monday, 28 July 2014 11:31
Province says it did share the 2010 report. Others say it wasn’t shared because it supports Grassy Narrows’ claim that Ontario is negligent in caring for mercury poisoning survivors.
By: Tanya Talaga Staff Reporter, The Star. Published on Mon Jul 28 2014
The people living in a northern Ontario community near where a toxic dump of 10 tonnes of mercury occurred five decades ago are still suffering the neurological effects of mercury poisoning, and a report about the effects of the poisoning was never made public, First Nations leaders say.
For years, the residents of Grassy Narrows First Nation, a community of 1,500 outside Kenora, have complained about symptoms consistent with mercury poisoning after a paper mill dumped the mercury into the Wabigoon-English River system between 1962 and 1970.
A 2010 report, entitled “Literature Review: The Impact of Mercury Poisoning on Human Health,” was commissioned by the Mercury Disability Board, yet kept hidden from those involved, claims Roger Fobister Sr., chief of Grassy Narrows First Nation.
- Expert report exposes Gov neglect on Grassy Narrows Mercury Poisoning Tragedy
- Stephen Lewis Speaks With Grassy Narrows
- Grassy Narrows River Run 2014
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- Green Prosperity Coalition: Ontario Election 2014
- In Memory of Farley Mowat, 1921 - 2014