#185 – Heavy Metal Blunder

Let me ask you a question. Suppose that you owned a plot of forest bifurcated by a river in the middle of ass-fuck nowhere. Then suppose that forty or so years ago your grandpappy permitted a bunch of people to lug toxic waste all over your property in the name of profits. Grandpappy is gone and the forest is yours; when do you think you might get around to checking that, you know, the toxic waste party was properly cleaned up?

If you’re Ontario and “touched by the angels”, the answer is 35 years. That’s how long the rivers and land around the now-infamous Grassy Narrows have gone untested by the provincial government. Never mind that there was a fucking sawmill openly using mercury as part of their production. Forget Robert Sharpe’s alarming discovery that the court system was unable to dispense justice for the people who lost lives and livelihoods after the Ontario government practically banned fishing in the area. Obviously Ontario doesn’t need to seriously inspect the area anymore, because the “ah, fuck it, it’ll fix itself” method of…well, doing anything really is Canada’s preferred method. I’m half-convinced that some caker will unironically suggest duct tape.

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(s) Rivers are like ducts. Close enough, eh?

The first amazing part of this story is how many times it has come up without any meaningful action. Like a cat turd in a toilet bowl stories of malfeasance and stupidity bob into and out of public awareness. Most recently I was inspired by Kas Glowacki recalling his time literally dumping barrels of toxic waste in the wilderness with the awesome protective power of a plastic sheet to prevent seepage. We still have no information about the extent of the pollution around Grassy Narrows despite it being in the news now, in 2015, and in 2012. Research on the impacts of poisoning people has been ongoing since the 1970s, and the Canadian government continues to do what it does best – nothing of consequence. I suspect that if this was happening in a new suburban development we wouldn’t be waiting generations to start fixing the problem; where Japan set up a hefty repayment program for the lives that their experiences with mercury ruined Canada unleashed a half-assed system that couldn’t even be assed to send so much as a sympathy card. What’s this? We ruined your food supply and livelihoods? Here’s ~$18 million in a single lump sum to split for the rest of your lives. Debilitating mental and physical harm has never been less lucrative.

But wait, there’s more! Remember that bit about Kas Glowacki and the who-cares approach to poison? For a while it was practically policy – Ontario doubled its imports of American toxic waste in the 1990s because of how lax regulations on the stuff were. And that’s not including the disaster that is consumer habits dumping small quantities of crap over time. And even better? Ensuring compliance with waste dispsoal regimes is still a problem! Yes, people of the Internet – in the year 2015 Canadians were still dumping toxic waste in random spots and hoping for the best. Given how sloppy Canada is at managing even obvious pollution in heavily-populated areas the probability of Canada giving a shit about stuff that most people don’t see is frankly miniscule. This is especially true when municipalities are the ones often holding the fiscal bag as regards disposal sites. If anyone has the money to properly police toxic waste it sure as shit isn’t your average cash-strapped Canadian municipality.

Tracking would-be miscreant dumpers is a tough thing to mandate because there’s frankly a lot of space for a would-be illegal dumper to offload some toxic shit. But proper, constant environmental scanning is both possible and doesn’t require Orwellian surveillance. Actually looking proactively for problems instead of fumbling like a quarterback with a greased football allows us to hopefully find problems and their sources before they become massive, crippling problems. Sadly, when Canadians can’t even be bothered to properly screen the water they drink daily there is little chance that they’ll consider planning to test water that they aren’t regularly in contact with.

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