Thunder Bay

Domtar to sample soil at Wabigoon River for mercury contamination

The Domtar mill in Dryden, Ont., will undertake some soil sampling over the next few months, to "reassure" no mercury could find its way from the mill property to the Wabigoon River.

Mill undertaking voluntary testing along banks of Wabigoon River

Soil sampling will take place between the Wabigoon River and the Domtar mill in Dryden, Ont., to ensure no legacy mercury contamination is moving from the mill property to the river. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

The Domtar mill in Dryden, Ont., will undertake soil sampling over the next few months, to "reassure" no mercury could find its way from the mill property to the Wabigoon River.

The company will do the sampling along the riverbank, after a 2018 study suggested the company do more sampling to ensure no contamination is taking place.

The Dryden mill discharged mercury into the Wabigoon River in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The effects of mercury poisoning were found in First Nations downstream of the mill, particularly at Grassy Narrows.

"It's mainly along the riverbank, between the mill and the river," said Bonny Skene, the regional public affairs manager for Domtar.

"There are places our experts have identified as good places to check along the riverbank." 

Skene said there is no information to show mercury is going into the Wabigoon River from the mill site, and noted there are at least 15 studies to support that conclusion.

"There are a number of studies, and the consensus of all studies to date are that the mill site is not an ongoing source of concern of mercury contamination to the river."

Skene said there are different studies done by the mill and other parties that confirm legacy mercury contamination is not moving to the river.

"There's no new finding that's triggering this work, there's no new information that's come to light that's triggering this work, it's being done on a voluntary basis as a property owner, that there's no legacy contamination finding its way into the river."

Skene said the monitoring is separate from other regular monitoring done by the mill as part of its certificates to operate.

Domtar is one of several owners of the mill since the mercury was discharged nearly 50 years ago. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff Walters

Reporter/Editor

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.

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