Grassy Narrows Declares State of Emergency over Drinking Water

David Suzuki says Canada has a responsibility to lead on climate change
David Suzuki says Canada has a responsibility to lead on climate change

GRASSY NARROWS – Grassy Narrows First Nation has declared a State of Emergency. The emergency is the state of drinking water in the community. For the past year, Grassy Narrows First Nation has been under a Boil Water Advisory. However the community says that even boiling the water isn’t making the water safe for drinking.

“We are scared that our drinking water has been unsafe for a long time now and the federal government does not seem to care at all,” Grassy Narrows Councillor Rudy Turtle reports, “Our people have already been poisoned by mercury and now we have to deal with unsafe drinking water.”

The community located near Kenora Ontario, says that tests of their water conducted over the summer are showing tricholormethanes, haloacetic acids and hexaclorcyclopentadiene — all disinfectant byproducts which are considered potential carcinogens.

The Grassy Narrows Chief and Council state that government tests which were conducted in 2015 found turgidity levels in the water, the clearness of the water was at 120 times more than what is considered a safe level for human consumption.

The Ontario government and Grassy Narrows have also completed water testing which has found high mercury levels in the local watershed which are still present decades after those mercury poisoning levels were first found.

Senior levels of Government continue to report that they are seeking solutions. The mercury contamination was traced back to the pulp and paper mill in Dryden Ontario which polluted the Wabigoon River flowing from Dryden into the watershed. The problem facing cleanup efforts are that it is likely to be taxpayers who end up footing the bill. The Dryden Mill has changed corporate hands several times over the past half a century and there was not the concerns for cleaning up pollution in the past.

Grassy Narrows First Nation is now delivering bottled water to ensure residents have safe drinking water available. Across Northwestern Ontario many First Nation communities are under similar issues with safe drinking water. In some cases the boil water advisories, which include water for bathing, doing laundry and drinking have been in place for decades.

David Suzuki says that cleaning up the mercury contamination on the Wabigoon River water system is critical. In this interview with Amanda Perreault, Suzuki, one of the elder statesmen of Canada’s environmental causes states it is an embarrassment for Canada to leave the contamination uncleaned.