Hydropower projects in Québec are developed with respect for the environment and for local communities.

The question of methylmercury in hydroelectric reservoirs is an important one, and while we understand it may lead to concerns for communities living near dams, it is of the utmost importance not to let misinformation and incendiary language distort the conversation. Unfortunately, Mega Dams Resistance campaign coordinator Meg Sheehan uses this approach in her recent article published in these pages (“Mills’ shameful veto of CMP bills,” June 16).

Let’s look at a few scientific facts.

• There are no known cases of mercury poisoning among consumers of fish caught in Quebec. None.

• All fish naturally contain mercury.

• The impoundment of a reservoir causes a temporary increase in the mercury content in fish. In Québec, this phenomenon is well known and documented and has been rigorously monitored for decades in collaboration with public health authorities.

Sheehan refers to a Harvard University study on the Muskrat Falls development, despite the fact that Muskrat Falls is neither in Québec nor a Hydro-Québec project. The study in question used a new model to predict future mercury exposure of local communities. This model has not yet been scientifically validated and its results don’t correspond to the data that Hydro-Québec scientists have collected over more than 40 years of study. Levels of mercury in native populations in Québec are actually lower today than they were before our dams were constructed.

Over decades of hydropower development in Québec, campaigns have increased awareness in communities to the presence of mercury in fish, and consumption guides have been developed in several native languages by Hydro-Québec in collaboration with health authorities and the communities themselves. The Harvard study does not take into account the impact of such public health measures.
Unfortunately, this study has become fodder for opponents of Québec hydropower, a low-carbon energy source that can truly make a difference in fighting climate change.

 

Anne-Marie Prud’homme

scientific communicator, Public Affairs

Hydro-Quebec

Montreal, Quebec


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