Thunder Bay

Ontario commits $300K to Grassy Narrows water, fish sampling

Following a visit by two provincial ministers to Grassy Narrows First Nation on Monday, the Ontario government has pledged to work with the community to start remediation efforts on the English-Wabigoon River system.

Joint statement from environment, indigenous affairs ministers pledges 'working in partnership'

Ontario's indigenous affairs and environment ministers have pledged $300,000 to conduct field sampling at Grassy Narrows to begin remediation efforts on the English-Wabigoon River system. (CBC)

Following a visit by two provincial ministers to Grassy Narrows First Nation on Monday, the Ontario government has pledged to work with the community to start remediation efforts on the English-Wabigoon River system.

That announcement was made Monday evening in a joint statement by David Zimmer, the minister of Indigenous relations and reconciliation, and Glen Murray, the minister of environment and climate change.

The ministers's statement said Ontario will provide $300,000 to conduct testing of the water, sediment and fish in the waterway between Dryden and Ball Lake. It's the first step in broader work aimed at cleaning up mercury contamination in the river.

In addition, the ministers said cleanup efforts will be based on a report released earlier this year commissioned by the community, and funded by Ontario through a provincial working group on Grassy Narrows.

Community members of Grassy Narrows First Nation prepare to welcome Ministers David Zimmer and Glen Murray on June 27, 2016.

The First Nation, located north of Kenora, Ont., has been home to ongoing environmental and public health concerns since mercury was dumped into the river from Reed Paper's chemical plant in Dryden in the 1960s and 70s.

The statement added that the remediation project will consider traditional ecological knowledge, and that the province will "join Chief [Simon] Fobister to engage the federal government and other parties to find solutions to the mercury contamination that has devastated this community."

Province will search for reported underground mercury dump

The statement also pledged to search for a reported hidden dump containing barrels of mercury that came to light earlier in June, after a letter — written by a former mill worker — surfaced.

A recent government-funded report by environmental scientists revealed there is an on-going source of mercury in the water, but its location is unknown.

Monday's statement added that the province is testing groundwater wells at the former mill site for mercury, and that a geophysical assessment of the area will be conducted to see whether any barrels are buried.

Up to another $300,000 has also been pledged to the Ontario-Grassy Narrows First Nation working group, which is a forum for consideration of a range of concerns, including health and environmental issues, the statement added.

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