Lorraine Michael (MHA St. John’s Signal Hill – Quidi Vidi) has asked the provincial government to respond to concerns voiced by the Nunatsiavut Government about methylmercury.

Mercury is a particularly nasty pollutant, because it is toxic even in low levels, and, because it can “bioaccumulate,” meaning, build up in your system over time, inflicting increasing levels of harm as it bioaccumulates in both humans and animals.

In a process called biomagnification, small organisms that have absorbed mercury are eaten by bigger ones (say, salmon or duck), which are in turn eaten by us — each rung on the food chain passes more mercury along to the next. By the time we at the top eat animals from areas with mercury poisoning, it can be quite bad.

Worse still, in lakes, waterways, and wetlands, mercury is often naturally converted to a highly toxic, organic compound called methylmercury. Methylmercury is absorbed into the body more than 5 times easier than inorganic mercury.

It can cross both the blood-brain and placental barriers, allowing it to react directly with your brain and with your unborn baby. It is linked to everything from neurological disorders to kidney disease to birth defects.

Harvard researchers – commissioned by Nunatsiavut – recently completed a study that indicates levels of this neurotoxin will increase by 25-200 percent in the Churchill River reservoir if Nalcor doesn’t fully clear the reservoir of vegetation prior to flooding. And yet, Nalcor has opted to not fully clear the reservoir.

Nalcor are going against the joint review panel recommendations, deciding instead to deal with any methylmercury contamination after the fact, a plan Lorraine Michael calls “a Band-aid solution, and a poor one at that.”

“It is shameful that Nunatsiavut had to commission this study themselves, since the government was unwilling to do so – despite the fact that an Indigenous population’s food source is at risk,” said Michael.

“It is even more shameful that Nalcor has rejected the findings of this study and is ignoring the recommendations of the joint review panel.” Michael is currently urging the minister to respond to the concerns brought up by Nunatsiavut, whose food source is at risk of being poisoned.

Question of the day: Why remedy damage after-the-fact — damage that Harvard scientists confirm will happen in Labrador — instead of preventing that damage with a simple suggestion from said Harvard study?