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New funding will "correct this egregious, historic tragedy," Ontario Environment Minister Glen Murray said on Tuesday. (CBC News) Ontario will spend $85 million to clean up industrial mercury contamination that is poisoning the people at Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong First Nations in northwestern Ontario, the province’s environment minister, Glen Murray, announced on Tuesday.

The mercury was dumped into the river by Reed Paper, upstream of the First Nations in Dryden, Ont., in the 1960s and early 1970s. It has never been cleaned up.

That has resulted in more than 90 per cent of the population in the communities showing signs of mercury poisoning, according to research released in September 2016 by Japanese experts who have been studying the health of people there for decades. Grassy Narrows First Nation activist Judy Dasilva is shown at a 2012 rally in Toronto. People from the community have been pressing for the mercury to be cleaned up for decades. (Kevin Konnyu/picasaweb) "This really is an historic day in Ontario," Murray told CBC News in an interview. "The funding is there and it’s going to be spent right away." Remediation starts next year

Preparation work on the river will be completed this summer with remediation starting in early 2018, Murray said, adding the work will follow the course set by scientist John Rudd and be done in partnership with both First Nations.

An additional $2.7 million is budgeted to accelerate work already underway on the river, according to the province.

Murray said the announcement came after two months of intensive work with the chiefs of Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong.

No one from the First Nations was immediately available for comment on Tuesday. ‘Egregious historic tragedy’

"We were really racing to get it into cabinet and into treasury board before the people went away [for the summer]," Murray said of […]

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