News — 17 January 2018

By Chris Marchand

The search continues for officials with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) as they try to track down what they believe to be an ongoing source of mercury pollution in the Wabigoon River coming from the Dryden mill site.

A query for a progress update from the MOECC on their activities at the mill site from the Dryden Observer didn’t yield many details on whether the investigation was making headway, but offered some background on how which the MOECC is conducting its search.

“An assessment of the Dryden industrial site is currently underway to determine if the site is an ongoing source of mercury to the river so that appropriate action can be taken,” said MOECC Communications Branch’s Gary Wheeler. “This site assessment is being completed through a transparent process that includes the involvement of First Nations. The assessment includes the installation of monitoring wells, groundwater monitoring, soil sampling, and geophysical surveys. All methods, data and results from the assessment will be transparently shared with First Nations, stakeholders and members of the public.”

Wheeler says the MOECC is also taking a close look at an area of the industrial site that was identified by former mill worker Kas Glowacki in 2016 as a section where barrels containing mercury may have been buried in the 1970s.

“This assessment has two parts: a geo-physical assessment to locate metal materials in the soil that would be indicative of the presence of barrels, as well as soil sampling to assess the levels of mercury in the soil,” said Wheeler.

In December, Ontario passed legislation to establish an $85 million trust to fund the remediation of mercury contamination affecting the English and Wabigoon Rivers. Additionally, since 2016 Ontario has provided $5.2 million to support pre-remediation science and other related activities that includes work undertaken by Grassy Narrows First Nation, Wabaseemoong Independent Nations, and the ministry.

“We will continue to share the information gathered as part of the Dryden industrial site assessment with the working group, which includes five local First Nations, Domtar and Ontario. We look forward to providing more details in the future.”

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Chris Marchand is a native of Dryden, Ontario. He served his first newspaper internship at The Dryden Observer in 1998 while attending journalism studies at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops B.C. He's worked desks as both reporter and editor at the Fernie Free Press as well as filled the role of sports editor at the Cranbrook Daily Townsman. Marchand was named editor of the Dryden Observer in Aug. 2009.

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