Despite assurances of a local MHA, the Nunatsiavut Government is criticizing the provincial government for not taking more mitigation measures, to deal with issues surrounding the Muskrat Falls reservoir.
Lake Melville MHA Perry Trimper believes there was no need for those measures.
Asked if he thought, based on the available scientific data, the government should have done full soil removal and wetland capping, he simply responded, “No.”
“Those two mitigation measures… they’re completely theoretical, not been done. As to whether they would have had any measurable effect, it’s arguable. Perhaps they would have,” said Trimper.
“Despite the difficult times and the differences of opinion, we have learned a lot, in the last three years in particular. It’s made us much more confident in our predictions around human health in Lake Melville.”
Aug. 7, the full impoundment of the reservoir began, meaning it's too late for those measures to be taken.
A day later, The Nunatsiavut Government released a long, scathing statement to the media, criticizing the provincial government.
“We are now at a point of no return where the health, culture and way of life of many Labrador Inuit hangs in the balance,” said NG President Johannes Lampe in the statement.
“Impoundment of the Muskrat Falls reservoir has begun, and with it, the start of a chain of events that will have significant impacts on Labrador Inuit and, in particular, the community of Rigolet.”
Trimper himself has a background in environmental science. Before stepping into politics, he studied how methylmercury travels through osprey, in relation to the Muskrat Falls project. He believes there is more accurate data available now than in 2016, and people will not be harmed by the increased levels of methylmercury.
“I remain as confident now as I did then… there will be no measurable effect on changes in lifestyle.”
Lampe isn’t buying it.
“With reservoir impoundment underway, the time bomb is ticking on the future of those who depend on the Churchill River and Lake Melville for sustenance, and on the health, culture and way of life of many Labrador Inuit,” he said in the statement.
Trimper maintains a lot of steps have been taken that go a long way toward explaining and providing reassurance.
“I don’t think we are all the way there yet, but I do feel there’s been great progress in terms of understanding that issue, as well as many others around the project.”
Trimper said the methylmercury levels are being monitored and are “increasing as predicted,” and a close watch will have to be kept.
“There will be new stakeholders, new community groups that will be formed to oversee the monitoring of the aquatic environment as well as effects on human health."
He added the methylation of mercury is an extremely complicated process and understanding all the issues around it takes time.
“Mercifully, we did get the Independent Expert Advisory Committee formed when we did. It would have been great if it was formed much sooner, but that was beyond my control.”
Lampe said the provincial government has “prioritized its point of view, disregarded independent peer-reviewed science and placed the health and wellbeing of Labrador Inuit at risk.”
He went on to accuse Premier Dwight Ball and the provincial government of being dismissive towards the concerns they’ve expressed.
“The Nunatsiavut Government is extremely disappointed with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador with the way it has handled the whole Muskrat Falls fiasco,” the statement read. “The Premier has repeatedly betrayed our trust by neglecting to respond, in writing or publicly, to our concerns and/or questions. If this is what reconciliation is all about, then we want no part of it.”