Friday, August 15, 2008

Anishinabek and Other Indigenous People Still Dealing With Life In A Mercury Polluted Habitat

It was over a year ago I first brought to light the plight of the Anishinabek of the Gitchi Gami and their struggle with Canadian Government over mercury pollution on their lands. There has recently been published an update to this tragic situation without a lot of good news to add.

The culprit in this case appears to be Dryden Chemicals Limited and now their parent company Reed, Inc. A near decade of raw releases into the English-Wabigoon River have contaminated a large area covering many indigenous peoples' land. These people deserve to be treated better than we have done so far.

Stories like these should be used as warnings to us that uncontrolled mercury contamination can cause real harm. Yes, these releases were massive and directly into the water and today's EGUs and cement plants release mercury into the air over longer periods of time. But mercury and its long-lasting properties could make these sorts of catastrophic events more common and not so hard to imagine if we do not slow the build-up of this toxin in our waters.

An excerpt from the story is below.

In a message posted on the Friends of Anishinabek of the Gitchi Gami website, John H.W. Hummel, a pollution researcher based in British Colombia, explains that “when mercury or lead levels of 5 ppb to 6 ppb are found in the brain, 25 per cent of the glial progenitor stem cells simply ’shut down’! These particular brain cells are absolutely crucial for building the brain during infancy and beyond. This type of brain cell is also found in adults.”

Hummel believes that the thousands of Indigenous who have been ignored by the government should embark on a class-action lawsuit and has contacted Tony Merchant, from Merchant Law Group. Based in Saskatchewan, Mr. Merchant is the lawyer behind the recent compensation settlement for residential-school victims.

In his reply to Hummel, Merchant said he does not believe anything can be done for Grassy Narrows because of the 1985 settlement, however, “If there are identifiable mercury issues elsewhere” then such a lawsuit is a possibility. “We are prepared to pursue this issue,” Merchant says. “We are prepared to fund the battle which includes a battle regarding experts. If there are projects that we might undertake we will undertake them.”

The Mad as a Hatter story is found here. And a reprint of the story with more links for reference is here.