Advisory of the Day
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MOOSE LAKE, MB BWA: POOR ROADS AND LACK OF FUNDS FOR ALTERNATE WATER SUPPLY
ISOLATE SOME RESIDENTS IN NORTHERN MANITOBA COMMUNITY
WaterToday has received confirmation from an authorized spokesperson at Manitoba Office of Drinking Water via email statement, “A scheduled power outage has led to the loss of water pressure in the Moose Lake Public water distribution system. Distribution depressurization can compromise the safety of the water supply; therefore, a precautionary boil water advisory is being issued on January 30, 2019, to protect the public health. About 200 people affected. Moose Lake remains on advisory for non-compliance with operating licence conditions.”
The boil water advisory is designated short term, as described by Province of Manitoba Department of Sustainable Development, “Water systems listed as short-term are taking immediate steps to address the advisory. The majority of advisories in this category are issued due to minor operational problems that can be easily and timely addressed.”
WaterToday spoke with a community member in Moose Lake that did not wish to be named. While the community of Moose Lake municipal truck delivers free potable water from the water treatment plant to storage tanks in most households, the roadway to this part of the community has become so rough that water delivery and septic service trucks have refused to come out, according to the resident.
The resident also points out that during boil water advisory events, bottled water is used for drinking. The local Northern Store confirms that flats of 24 bottles of water are priced at $9.99 plus taxes and bottle deposits, but as there is no adjustment made for fixed income residents to purchase drinking water, this cost is simply unmanageable. The resident says the cost for a ride to the nearest commercial centre is $120, a two-hour round trip, where bottled water can be purchased at $4 per flat. The home requires 10 flats of water every two weeks during the active boil water advisories, which occur whenever the power goes out for more than two hours.
WaterToday spoke with JR Buck, the local water treatment technician and and water truck driver to find out more. We asked about the circumstances where a boil water advisory might occur with other factors that might isolate certain households from accessing clean water in Moose Lake, including the poor condition of some of the roads. “Yes, that is true, there are times when the road is muddy”, agreed Buck, explaining that the truck cannot always get to every home to deliver water. According to Buck, the community residents do not pay for water or sewer services. The septic tanks are cleaned out regularly, “more than enough” according to Buck, and fresh water from the community plant is delivered to household cisterns on a regular basis, with the above noted exception that may occur in certain conditions.
The town of Moose Lake is across the road from Mosakahiken Cree Nation, which has its own water treatment plant, regulated and monitored by Indigenous Services Canada via Environmental Health Officer at the Swampy Cree Tribal Council office. MCN Water Plant Operator and Water Truck driver Mark Underton Jr. spoke to WaterToday by phone from the Water Treatment Plant office on the Cree Nation.
“We don’t have a boil water advisory here”, said Underton Jr., explaining that the Province of Manitoba oversees the community water plant off reserve. The two communities work together, if there is a breakdown, and the town system is not running, MCN provides relief, both in supply of treated water and in delivery to the off-reserve households. “It’s not a big deal, if someone asks for water, we just go, it takes ten minutes out of our day”, says Underton Jr, who has been a water technician at MCN for two years, and still learning. He also operates the water delivery trucks.
The Moose Lake resident with the poor road access seems to be an exception to the norm here in Moose Lake, but when the Septic truck service and water delivery services cannot or will not make the trip, conditions become quite concerning. According to the resident, an elderly member of the household “got e-coli poisoning (from the water). We have to be very careful. She was sick in hospital seven days, about a year ago.”
According to the resident, certain people in the community find out about a boil water advisory ahead of others, suggesting “Some people get water, some don’t. It’s supposed to be first-come-first-served, that’s what they say.” According to the water treatment plant manager, the latest water samples submitted to ALS Labs in Winnipeg have come back clear of concerns, and results have been reported to the region’s Drinking Water Officer, with the expectation that the short term BWA will be officially rescinded. The Drinking Water Officer could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.
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