Nfld. & Labrador

Country food diet puts Rigolet man in mercury 'danger zone'

A Labrador man whose own mercury levels are high says he hopes the Muskrat Falls protests will reduce the risk of further contamination, but he's not ready to wave the victory flag just yet.

'At the end of the day, it's my choice,' says Derrick Pottle

Derrick Pottle, left, welcomes hunger striker Billy Gauthier back from Ottawa. Both men are known for their Inuit carvings. (CBC)

A Labrador man whose own mercury levels are high says he hopes the Muskrat Falls protests will reduce the risk of further contamination but he's not ready to wave the victory flag just yet.

"I don't know if we won yet … I do know that we sent a very loud message," Derrick Pottle, from Rigolet, told Labrador Morning on Friday.

"I am still concerned but I put my faith in the leaders," he said. "If it's not what the people of Labrador are looking for, like we said on the protest, we'll be back again."

Pottle has reason to worry that flooding the Muskrat Falls reservoir will push up methylmercury levels in Lake Melville. He's already been exposed to a high level of toxins.

I'm gonna die sometime, but if I go with a full belly of country food, so be it.- Derrick Pottle

His own mercury levels, measured from hair samples taken by researchers from Nunatsiavut and Harvard University, are very high, because of the food that he eats.

About 95 per cent of his diet is made up of fresh items from the land and the sea, Pottle said Friday during a trip to Happy Valley-Goose Bay to welcome hunger strikers back from Ottawa.

"Last week before I came here I ate seal meat five times and salmon once, codfish another day and part of a goose another day so it's every day. We eat county food every day," he told CBC.

"I do know there is methylmercury present in the environment through natural runoffs, and whatever else. It's in the food chain, but when your levels are elevated to pretty much a danger zone, you do think about it."

'It's my choice'

Pottle said even if he is doing himself "more harm than good" he still prefers to eat country food.

While he does eat what he calls "domestic meat" while travelling, he said food in northern grocery stores is very expensive and often not fresh.

"I'm not afraid of dying and I'm gonna die sometime, but if I go with a full belly of country food, so be it," Pottle said.

"If you keep worrying, you'll just worry yourself to sickness … At the end of the day, it's my choice and that's what I choose."

Pottle said he will be taking part in open houses as Nunatsiavut leaders explain the agreement reached with the Newfoundland and Labrador government to end the protests, and he will wait to see if Inuit interests are really protected.

"I'm not going to wave the victory flag just yet," he said. 

With files from Labrador Morning

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