Nfld. & Labrador

Meeting on Muskrat Falls mercury levels aims for common ground

The province is getting all stakeholders together in St. John's to discuss potential methyl mercury levels from the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.
The Minister of Environment and Conservation, Perry Trimper, says the workshop-style meeting will happen near the end of March. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Officials and experts from Nalcor, the Nunatsiavut Government and Harvard University are set to sit down at the end of March to discuss the varying research surrounding what methyl mercury levels could potentially result from the Muskrat Falls dam.

"Right now we have a divide, and so I'm proposing this forum of bringing everyone together in the room to explore this information," Minister of Environment and Conservation Perry Trimper told CBC's Labrador Morning.

Researchers with Harvard University have said that mercury levels in Lake Melville could rise anywhere from 25 to 200 per cent from flooding due to the hydroelectric project, while Nalcor has countered there could be no detectable change.

On Monday Trimper, who is also the MHA for Lake Melville. along with provincial experts, met with university researchers and Nunatsiavut officials to discuss their concerns. Nalcor was not involved. 

Nalcor has said a 41-kilometre resevoir will be created when Muskrat Falls is dammed for its hydroelectricity. (CBC)

'Get to the bottom of this'

Trimper acknowledged there is some animosity and controversy surrounding the varying mercury research. 

"There is no question there is a difference of opinion, it's very strong. [But] there is a lot of good science, I would suggest, being done on both sides," said Trimper.

Trimper said the meeting, taking place near the end of March in St. John's, will look for common ground, based in fact. 

I want everybody there, and make sure we can get to the bottom of this.- Perry Trimper

"We hope to have both sides of this issue in the room, with their technical experts," said Trimper.

"I want everybody there, and make sure we can get to the bottom of this."

Trimper said figuring out what exactly will or will not happen in Lake Melville will take everyone's input.

"We're trying to anticipate what the future looks like. And to do that, you use some complicated modelling," said Trimper.

"The researchers need to agree on each of these steps, and there's a series of them, to get to that conclusion."