Muskrat Falls prompts Harvard research on mercury levels

Researchers from Harvard University are asking people who live in Labrador's Lake Melville area for hair samples, in order to determine current and future mercury levels in their system.
Researchers are measuring for any fluctuations in mercury levels at Muskrat Falls as Muskrat Falls construction continues. (Submitted by Sharlene Webber)

Researchers from Harvard University are asking people who live in Labrador's Lake Melville area for hair samples, in order to determine current and future mercury levels in their system.

The group from Harvard is working in collaboration with members of the Nunatsiavut Government to study the possible fluctuation of mercury levels as the construction of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity project progresses.

"We want to know if there's any change in the environment, either through the flooding of Muskrat Falls or through any kind of change in the physical environment," said environmental science professor Elsie Sunderland.

"We want to have a baseline to compare that to," she said.

The team will compare current mercury levels of area residents, as well as fish that live in the area's bodies of water, with future levels that will be collected.

Sunderland said mercury levels have been documented to usually rise in the food chain when land is flooded.

She expects to have results ready by next spring.

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