Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Muskrat Falls Report Recommends Soil Removal from Megaproject's Reservoir

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Muskrat Falls Report Recommends Soil Removal from Megaproject's Reservoir

Article excerpt

Muskrat Falls report recommends soil removal

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - A new report is recommending the capping of wetlands and removal of soil to reduce the buildup of toxic methylmercury in the reservoir for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in central Labrador.

The Independent Expert Advisory Committee, appointed by the province after protests at the construction site, is recommending a number of initiatives aimed at limiting a spike of methylmercury in wild food sources, such as fish and seals.

Methylmercury is formed as vegetation rots underwater, and the reservoir for the Muskrat Falls dam would require flooding 41 square kilometres.

The neurotoxin is linked to cardiovascular and immune problems and hyperactivity in children. However, the health risks depend on who eats tainted foods and how often. When pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children eat too much contaminated seafood, there's an increased risk of nervous system problems in the developing child.

A Harvard University study released in 2016 said methylmercury concentrations in locally caught fish, birds and seals -- which nearby Inuit populations use as food sources -- will likely increase up to 10-fold once the lower Churchill River is dammed.

Carl McLean, deputy minister of Lands and Natural Resources, wrote in the report that the potential impacts and risks in not implementing additional mitigation measures such as soil removal are too high.

"Following the direction of the terms of reference, we must do everything we can to protect the health of the Indigenous and local population through mitigation efforts to minimize impacts from methylmercury before the reservoir is inundated," he wrote. "Once inundated, no additional mitigation measures for methylmercury can take place."

But support for the committee's recommendations, which have been forwarded to provincial Environment Minister Eddie Joyce, was not unanimous. …

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