Environment featured Racism

The true cost of Muskrat Falls – methylmercury and environmental racism

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Independent researchers from Harvard University, Memorial University in St. John’s, and the University of Manitoba have raised the alarm about the accumulation of methylmercury downstream from the Muskrat Falls development.

This will affect the health of hundreds of Labrador Inuit who often rely on fish, seals and other wild food.

“The people here are very worried and concerned about their future, and most importantly about their children and grandchildren’s future, because methylmercury usually stays within the system for three to four decades,” says Nunatsiavut Minister of Land and Natural Resources Darryl Shiwak.

“Several generations will be impacted, and people are very frustrated that nothing is done to address the concerns,” says Shiwak.

In fact, if it weren’t for the Nunatsiavut government initiating the research we wouldn’t have known about it.

Nalcor, the provincial energy corporation that spearheads the mega energy project, has claimed that the development would have “no measurable effects downstream.” The province has been mostly silent on the topic.

Yet the new research establishes that some residents who lead traditional lifestyle may experience an increase in methylmercury exposure of up to 1500% following reservoir flooding.  And almost half the community will exceed the Health Canada guideline for methylmercury exposure.

Methylmercury is a dangerous poison that can cause neurological impairment in developing brains, particularly in cognitive thinking, attention, and memory.

And not just Inuit will be exposed to this potent toxin.

“This does not concern just the Nunatsiavut government, not just the Inuit,” says Shiwak. “The people who live in Happy Valley Goose Bay they should be just as worried as we are. This report was done by independent academic researchers and is peer-reviewed.”

The situation can be remedied. But it’s expensive, as it wll require Nalcor to clear the future Muskrat Falls reservoir area of wood, brush, vegetation and topsoil.

Nalcor does not want to hear about further cost increases.

Nova Scotia, via the Maritime Link, stands to benefit from the Muskrat Falls project, as it lessens our dependence on coal-generated electricity.

Recent project delays and cost overruns have been widely reported here. Yet not many Nova Scotians know that people actually live there, and that the project is inflicting severe harm on those people.

Shiwak agrees.

“This energy is billed and promoted as green energy, but if you look at the research that Harvard did you see that it is really quite dirty, and put on the backs of  small group of aboriginal people.

“They have to bear the brunt for power going to other parts of this country.”

Visit the website Make Muskrat Right for more information and to sign a petition asking provincial and federal leaders to act on the new information uncovered by the Nunatsiavut government.

See also:

The true cost of Muskrat Falls renewable energy

Muskrat Falls, “it’s not empty, it’s people’s home.”