A committee looking into how best to mitigate the risk of potential methylmercury poisoning downstream from the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric plant in Labrador has released four recommendations.
The Independent Expert Advisory Committee spent eight months studying the issue.
* The IEAC recommends that a public information campaign be undertaken to communicate that, based on scientific evidence, current practices related to consumption of country food and water are safe.
* The IEAC recommends that an independent body oversee the design and implementation of a monitoring program for the Lower Churchill Project, ensuring that it is community-based and that it provides information that is relevant to the protection of human health.
* The IEAC recommends that the Province, Nalcor Energy, Indigenous groups and the local populations negotiate an Impact Security Fund prior to full flooding. The purpose of the fund is to guarantee continued access to local country food, or safe alternatives, if methylmercury exposures increase above pre-established thresholds, despite mitigation efforts.
* In addition, while the IEAC was not able to achieve consensus with respect to mitigation, based on votes by three of the four voting members, the IEAC recommends that Nalcor Energy undertake targeted removal of soil and capping of wetlands in the future reservoir area before impoundment.
The issue of methylmercury was raised in an environmental study by a researcher at Harvard university.
When the mercury contained in the organic material found on the land is mixed with water, the toxin is released.
The fear downstream from the Muskrat Falls dam is that the mercury will be washed towards them, and into the fish and wildlife they eat.
In October, 016, the Innu and Inuit put pressure on the provincial government to stop the flooding of the reservoir adjacent to the dam.
Three people went on a hunger strike. Dozens more occupied the construction site at the dam, shutting down operations for eleven days.
The independent committee was formed as part of a deal the premier brokered with Indigenous leaders to end the protests.
The committee is made up of four voting members including the Innu Nation, Nunatsiavut government, NunatuKavut Community Council and affected municipalities.
The recommendations are not binding.
“We have taken the concerns related to methylmercury associated with the Muskrat Falls Project very seriously and continue to work to ensure the health and safety of residents,” Minister of Municipal Affairs and Environment Eddie Joyce said in a statement.
“As we review the recommendations, we will continue to consult with Indigenous groups and municipalities.”