Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation - Economic and Environmental Issues - Mercury Contamination

Mercury Contamination

The First Nation experienced mercury poisoning from Dryden Chemical Company, a chloralkali process plant, located in Dryden, Ontario that supplied both sodium hydroxide and chlorine used in large amounts for bleaching paper during production for the Dryden Pulp and Paper Company. Dryden Chemical company discharged their effluent into the Wabigoon-English River system.

The Ontario provincial government has initially told the First Nation communities to stop eating fish — their main source of protein — and closed down their commercial fishery. In 90%+ unemployment rate in 1970, closing of the commercial fishery meant economic disaster for the Indian Reserve. The closure also effected the tourism industry, where locals acted as guides for out of town fisherman. Walleye in local waterways are no longer safe to eat due to mercury contamination.

Both the paper and chemical companies ceased operations in 1976, after 24 years of operations.

Grassy Narrows First Nation received a settlement in 1985 from the Canadian government and the Reed Paper Company that bought-out the Dryden Pulp and Paper Company and its sister-company Dryden Chemical Company, but the mercury was never removed from the water and continued as of March, 2010 to affect the health of Grassy Narrows residents. The amount of mercury present in fish as of 2012 was low but a health advisory remains in effect. Consumption of fish, particularly Pickerel (Walleye), the local favorite, which is high on the food chain and concentrates mercury, remains dangerous for pregnant women and those with long term exposure.

On September 8, 2007, Ontario announced that it had agreed to begin discussions with Grassy Narrows First Nation on forestry-related issues. The provincial government appointed former Federal Court of Canada Chief Justice Frank Iacobucci to lead these discussions. Iacobucci's discussions with Grassy Narrows will focus on, "sustainable forest management partnership models and other forestry-related matters, including harvesting methods, interim protection for traditional activities and economic development."

Read more about this topic:  Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation, Economic and Environmental Issues

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