Environment Minister Perry Trimper outlined the province’s Human Health Risk Assessment Plan relating to methylmercury risks that surround the Muskrat Falls project. VOCM’s David Maher reports.
Further steps to mitigate the issue are not so much part of the plan. Instead increased monitoring of the area and the potential for compensation are the key aspects of what was announced.
The risk of methylmercury poisoning are greater in the Muskrat Falls reservoir because mercury in the soil will be churned up by the flooding, and could increase how much methylmercury animals consume. If they consume too much and people then eat those animals, it becomes a health risk.
Trimper says the plan is to remove 75 per cent of timber in the area without removing topsoil. The Nunatsiavut Government wants full timber and topsoil removal as a way to mitigate mercury levels before they are consumed. Trimper says the difference between the plan and what Nunatsiavut is proposing is minimal.
If methylmercury levels get too high in “country foods”—seals and waterfowl, for example—consumption bans will put in place. Nalcor will then consult with local populations on what the appropriate compensation will be. The potential effects of methylmercury in the local wildlife could last 20-30 years before going away.
Trimper says if the monitoring program is fully complied with, any negative health effects for people in the area will be caught before they are negatively affected.