Ontario knew about mercury contamination near Grassy Narrows in 1990: report – Thunder Bay

A newly released report shows that the Ontario government knew of mercury contamination at the Dryden mill, upstream from Grassy Narrows, in 1990. (Jody Porter/CBC)

A new report shows the Ontario government knew nearly 30 years ago that a mill site upstream from Grassy Narrows First Nation was contaminated with mercury.

“There’s a continued liability on the province,” Grassy Narrows chief Simon Fobister said. “They said it’s going to clear itself up, but they never informed us that there’s still mercury in the soil and they were aware of it.”

“We’ll consider all our options right now, whether it’s political or legal.”

The confidential report was done by True Grit Consulting in 2016; the firm was tasked with determining whether mercury is still leaching into the Wabigoon River from the nearby Dryden mill site, which is located upstream from Grassy Narrows, where residents have shown signs of mercury poisoning for decades.

Mercury visible in soil at site

The report was independently reviewed by CBC News.

The report states that the Ontario government was informed about visible mercury in the soil at the site as early as 1990, and that 2016 data is insufficient to determine with any certainty if mercury is still present and leaching into the river. True Grit recommends a followup investigation.

“Very disappointed that the Ontario government hasn’t continued monitoring the leakage of mercury at the old Dryden mill,” said Fobister. “We’ve always been informed that the mercury is contained, but to our surprise, according to this report, mercury is still in the soil and leaching into the river.”

“We have been misinformed by the ministry.”

The mercury issue goes back decades, with reports that Reed Paper dumped several tons of mercury into the Wabigoon River in the 1960s and 1970s (the mill is currently operated by Domtar, which purchased the site in 2007 and commissioned the True Grit report).

The elevated mercury levels in the river led to mercury…

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