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All wells were near the Wabigoon River that flows downstream from Dryden, where the mill is located, to Grassy Narrows.The Domtar-commissioned report noted that of all the groundwater wells near the river, three "key" wells positioned on land that slopes down and east toward the river showed groundwater mercury levels below provincial limits. The report also says that although the limited data shows no "apparent significant loading of mercury" to the river, "it is not presently possible to make a firm conclusion."Rudd said these may not be the key wells and that a stream bed beneath the mill could be taking thegroundwater on a different route to the river - a route that runs toward the wells that in the early 1990s showed mercury levels above the provincial limit.
"Although the provincial government oversaw the closure of the chlor-alkali plant, which was the source of mercury at the site, no long-term, consistent monitoring plan for mercury was ever put in place. We think Ontario is now at a turning point," said Struhs, adding that the government made an "important change in direction" last month when it agreed to pay for a comprehensive assessment that should "once and for all" determine whether mercury from the site is leaking into the river.In its statement, Ontario's Environment Ministry said it currently has heavy machinery on site to install a network of groundwater monitoring wells.Mercury, a potent neurotoxin, has sickened generations who consider walleye a dietary staple. Physical symptoms of mercury poisoning include loss of muscle co-ordination and tunnel vision. Fetuses are particularly vulnerable to cognitive damage. Recent research by Japanese experts shows residents, including the younger generation, continue to have symptoms of mercury poisoning.Believing the river was not cleaning itself, and feeling certain that the toxin has been poisoning them,leaders from Grassy Narrows and nearby Wabaseemoong (Whitedog) Independent Nations have for years been asking the government for information on the scope of the mercury contamination.Most recently, there was a letter to a senior Environment Ministry staffer in 2015, and another letter to then environment minister Glen Murray in March 2016 that asked for information on mercury contamination "without further delay."When representatives for Grassy Narrows asked Domtar for a copy of the report, as well as any other information the company had about possible mercury contamination, they were told by the company to file a freedom of information request with the government, according to emails obtained by the Star. Domtar told the Star it gave a copy of the report to the community in September. A representative for Grassy Narrows told the Star that the person who received it did not at the time realize its significance.Rudd - who has received Grassy Narrows funding to measure mercury contamination in the Wabigoon River system - has repeatedly said the entire area around the old paper processing plant should be examined because, historically, these types of plants have been known to be sources of contamination long after they stopped using mercury in the paper-bleaching process.