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Mercury-tainted soil found upstream from Grassy Narrows First Nation

Star reporters and volunteers from Earthroots took soil samples from behind an old paper mill, 100 kilometres upstream from Grassy Narrows, which revealed significantly elevated levels of mercury.


By JAYME POISSON News reporter
DAVID BRUSER News Reporter


DRYDEN, ONT.—The Star and volunteers from an environmental group have found mercury-contaminated soil upstream from Grassy Narrows First Nation.

Over several weeks this past fall, first the volunteers from Earthroots and then reporters from the Star dug a dozen holes and took soil samples from a site behind an old paper mill, then had them analyzed by a lab. Soil from three holes contained significantly higher-than-normal levels of mercury.

“There is more than enough of a smoking gun to require a full investigation,” said Gord Miller, Ontario’s former environmental commissioner and the chair of the Earthroots group.

When presented with the findings, the province told the Star it takes them “seriously” and will work with the current landowner to determine if more tests are needed.

Mercury contamination, a serious health risk, has plagued the indigenous community in northern Ontario for decades. Dangerous and persistently high levels of mercury in the sediment and fish in the river system suggest there is an ongoing source, but the province has denied the possibility that the site of the old mill — 100 kilometres upstream from Grassy Narrows — could be responsible.

The samples were taken from an area circled on a map by retired mill worker Kas Glowacki, who said that in 1972 he was part of a group who “haphazardly” dumped drums filled with salt and mercury into a pit behind the mill.

Click here to watch the video and read the full article on The Star's website.