Please may I correct an error in the Standard Freeholder 23rd December, “Akwesasne oppose de-listng river” by Greg Peerenboom. It was erroneously reported that “The institute has been responsible for much of the research which has led to improving the river”. Whilst it may be true the institute has contributed some research one must not forget the institute only came into being long after the initial research had been carried out by the scientists of the RAP team. It was as a result of early work on the river that it was discovered there was NO research facility anywhere on the globe that looked solely at rivers and streams. That is why on 9th January, 1991, the concept of an institute was first brought to the attention of the public through a Standard Freeholder front page news story of that date.
By the time the institute was finally born the scientists of the RAP had undertaken studies and determined, through their scientific research, where the evironmental problems of the St. Lawrence River lay. It was only after many studies and meetings the RAP team even came up with some solutions. The point I am making is the federal, provincial, Akwesasne and the sole independent scientists that made up the RAP had already undertaken the brunt of the work that needed to be done.
Anything the institute might have contributed could only have been supplementary to the main work undertaken by the RAP team. It is unfair not to attribute the success of the river clean-up to the right people.
Now, with respect to the Akwesasne position relative to the mercury in the fish of the St. Lawrence River. I fail to understand why, with all the intense environmental and scientific knowledge that exists in the Mohawk nation, they have not understood there has always been mercury in the fish of this mighty river. It is only due to the advance of modern technology that it became possible to measure the mercury that was present in the fish. The experience of that other first nation people, The Cree, should be a pointer. In Northern Quebec, where there is no industry, the Cree people can no longer enjoy the fish they had previously enjoyed because of the mercury contamination in the fish. Again, it was not learned until recent years, that mercury contamination might be a problem.
Importantly, what has to be recognized is that, with the advent of the power dam at Cornwall and the existence of the paper mill, the mercury levels were drastically elevated. However, since that time there has to have been a dramatic decrease in the mercury levels. Realistically, because this is a living river, it will always have some level of mercury present in the fish and the sediment.
John E. Milnes – South Stormont Ontario
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