THE MINISTÈRE DE L'ENVIRONNEMENT MAKES PUBLIC ITS PROGRESS REPORT ON CONTAMINANT CONTENTS IN THE SEDIMENTS AND FLESH OF THE FISH IN FOUR NORD-DU-QUÉBEC LAKES
Chibougamau, October 21, 2002 — The Ministère de l’Environnement made public today its progress report on contaminant contents in the flesh of the fish and sediments of four Nord-du-Québec lakes (Chibougamau, aux Dorés, Obatogamau and Waconichi) located near the town of Chibougamau and the Cree communities of Oujé-Bougoumou and Mistissini.
Data collected so far is encouraging, particularly regarding fish flesh. Mercury concentrations in lake trout are much lower than expected, and the presence of toxic metals is minimal or below the detection treshold.
Conclusions of survey
Contaminants in fish flesh
Findings show that mercury concentrations in fish flesh are below or similar to mean concentrations for Québec as a whole. However, as is often the case in Québec, mercury concentrations in lake trout, northern pike, walleye and burbot exceed Health Canada's fish consumption guidelines. It would appear that mining activities carried out near lakes Chibougamau and aux Dorés have not resulted in any increase in mercury contents in the fish. In all the fish sampled, PCB and dioxin and furan concentrations are below Health Canada's fish consumption guidelines. Moreover, concentrations of toxic metals like arsenic, cadmium, chromium and lead came up low or below the detection treshold.
No PCBs were found in the sediments taken at lakes Chibougamau and aux Dorés; however, some metals (arsenic, cadmium, copper, nickel and zinc) are present in strong concentrations in the sediments near mine tailing yards. In high concentrations, these metals are liable to be toxic to aquatic organisms.
Concentrations of these metals are highest at the sites near the Copper Rand Mine as well as south of Principale Mine and at the edge of the Principale and Eaton Bay mine tailing yards. However, given the different types of mineralization processes at these sites, establishing with certainty the proportion of metals of natural origin from those generated by human activity is not possible.
Observations following environmental control
Apart from this survey, the Ministère de l’Environnement has been carrying out on-site inspections and has been following up on monthly monitoring reports submitted by mining operations on the quality of their effluents. It was noted that conditions revealed by analysis results, particularly where toxicity is concerned, and certain actions taken were likely to cause damage to the environment. In matters regarding environmental control, the Ministère de l’Environnement is extremely vigilant. Hence, notices of offence have been served and every measure will be taken to ensure compliance with the Environment Quality Act at all times.
New sediment and fish flesh samples were taken over the past summer at lakes Chibougamau, aux Dorés, Waconichi and Obatogamau in order to complete and refine the data collected to date. Findings from that sampling campaign will be available in 2003.
The Ministère de l’Environnement's partners will also be very active. For instance, the Société de la faune et des parcs du Québec continues to be actively involved in the fish sampling campaign and offers its expertise on every matter regarding wildlife. As for the Ministère des Ressources naturelles, it will ensure follow-up of restoration plans for active mines and aid in defining issues related to sediments near mine tailing yards.
The Centre régional de santé et des services sociaux de la Baie-James will adapt its fish consumption recommendations to the new data, which has shown an improvement with respect to past years.
"Evaluating the scientific knowledge acquired to date and future actions will be done jointly with all stakeholders. For that purpose, a scientific co-management will be set up with the Cree Nation," Minister Boisclair announced.
The Minister also added that "to that end, the Ministère de l’Environnement will work in close cooperation with its partners, the Société de la faune et des parcs du Québec, the Ministère des Ressources naturelles, the Centre régional de santé et des services sociaux de la Baie-James, and key regional players."
For his part, the Minister for Native Affairs and for the Development of Nord-du-Québec, Michel Létourneau, declared: "These well substantiated results are very satisfying indeed. I am also pleased to count on the expertise and vigilance of interested parties from my region, including representatives of the Cree, in order to ensure that the situation is closely monitored in the future."
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