Toxic sludge clean-up options posed in Thunder Bay tonight

A huge patch of toxic muck in Thunder Bay's harbour comes under scrutiny this evening at a public meeting.
A thick layer of pulpy fibrous material like this sample is suspended in the water at the Thunder Bay North Harbour site. (Jamie Saunders/EcoSuperior)

A huge patch of toxic muck in Thunder Bay's harbour comes under scrutiny this evening at a public meeting.

At total of 22 hectares along the harbour floor contains mercury and other pollutants in sediment that's up to four metres thick — the result of nearly a century of pulp and paper mill discharges.

“There is an element of risk to the ecology of the area and to certain aspects of human health,” said Jamie Saunders, program co-ordinator at EcoSuperior, a northwestern Ontario environmental stewardship organization.

A consultant has prepared options for cleaning up the nearly $400,000 cubic metres of contaminated material, and his report will be made public for the first time at Wednesday's meeting.

Among the options being considered, the polluted material could be covered up to keep it where it is, or removed through dredging.

The meeting takes place at 7 p.m. in the Ryan Building at Lakehead University.

Saunders said people in Thunder Bay deserve a voice in deciding a course of action.

“I think there needs to be some input from the public as to what they would prefer, and what their idea of the future of Thunder Bay North Harbour is,” he said.

The contamination is in the water adjacent to the former Provincal Papers mill.

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