Aug 18, 2012
Bands land project funding to look into contaminants (ON)
Wednesday, 18 July 2012
By Heather Latter, Staff writer
FORT FRANCES—Seine River First Nation and Naicatchewenin First Nation together are moving forward with an environmental contaminants project after recently receiving funding approval from the National First Nations Environmental Contaminants Program—an initiative made possible through the partnerships of the First Nations University of Canada, Health Canada, and the Assembly of First Nations.
“It’s a continuation of the project that began last year with Seine River,” Jeremiah Windego, CEO of the Naicatchewenin Development Corp. (NDC), noted during a kick-off meeting for the project at La Place Rendez-Vous here earlier this month.
“It’s important to take the lead and hopefully get other communities involved . . . to take the environment seriously,” he said.
Naicatchewenin Chief Wayne Smith admitted it was quite a process to garner approval for the proposal.
“But we had a good team to push the proposal forward,” he remarked.
Seine River Chief Earl Klyne explained the importance of the project.
“Our main concern is the health of our people,” he stressed, citing heart disease and cancer rates are much higher on the Seine River water system, which also flows into Rainy Lake and along the border of United States.
He noted the project includes looking at some of the causes of contamination, especially at a time when several new mines are exploring in the area.
“Are there contaminants in our land, water, air, and animals?” Chief Klyne asked, adding he’s hopeful they’ll be able to identify, through this project, some ideal areas to produce clean food.
“It is only some areas that are contaminated,” he said. “I just want to change it for the future for our kids.
“So we can safely live off the land.”
The contaminants project, which got underway last year, saw the assistance of Lakehead University students working to collect data for the study.
Lead worker John Kabatay said they took water samples and tested the fish, discovering high levels of mercury.
They also took hair samples of local residents to compile data of mercury in individual people.
“Our biggest concern are the problems that come along with mercury,” Kabatay stressed. “So we need to address these issues.”
Dr. Peter Lee, with the Lakehead University Environmental Laboratory, also offered a presentation at last week’s meeting, indicating the short-term goals are to assess the contamination.
The long-term goals include developing a food security plan and creating guidelines for the consumption of fish.
Dr. Lee cited several possible causes of the contamination, such as Steep Rock Iron Mine near Atikokan, a nearby Ontario Power Generation station, and the Atikokan sewage system.
He echoed future concerns lie within the fact that sulphate is involved in the methylation of mercury. And in Ontario, there is no regulation of sulphate in water.
Both Kabatay and Dr. Lee said they will continue with testing for another year, focusing on more animals, such as deer and moose, as well as selecting areas near Naicatchewenin to study.
(Fort Frances Times)