Muskrat Falls report recommends soil removal from megaproject’s reservoir

An aerial photo of the Muskrat Falls generating station under construction in Labrador. Photo by Nalcor Energy.

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — A new report is recommending the capping of wetlands and removal of soil to reduce toxic methylmercury from the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.

The Independent Expert Advisory Committee, appointed by the province after protests at the Labrador site, seeks a number of initiatives aimed at limiting a spike of methylmercury in wild food sources such as fish and seals.

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Methylmercury is formed as vegetation rots under water, and the reservoir for Muskrat Falls would require flooding 41-square kilometres.

Nalcor Energy does not support the removal of soil, noting that SNC-Lavalin has estimated the cost at between $409 and $742 million, not including a contingency fund and other costs.

The $12.7 billion project – which will also provide energy to Nova Scotia through the underwater Maritime Link – has almost doubled in cost with financing since it was approved five years ago.

Full power is not expected until 2020, about two years behind schedule.

The committee is also recommending an improved monitoring program and the creation of an impact security fund in case restrictions have to be placed on the consumption of country foods such as fish.

The committee gave its recommendations to Environment Minister Eddie Joyce.

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