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Water Today Title October 24, 2018

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Feature

Update 2017/10/16
First Nations Water

FEWER LONG-TERM ADVISORIES IN FIRST NATIONS COMMUNITIES. ARE FEDERAL INITIATIVES WORKING?


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Earlier this year in a joint announcement between Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) and Health Canada (HC), that outlined a five-year plan to end long-term drinking water advisories in First Nations Communities by 2021. The announcement highlighted the $1.8 billion, of new money, in Budget 2016 that was allocated to accomplish the goal of ending long-standing water issues. An additional $141 million was allocated over the same period for monitoring and testing, and as of January $275.7 million had been spent addressing approximately 60% of the long-term advisories.

In its August 31 report, HC listed 41 short-term and 103 long-term Drinking Water Advisories (DWA), and 28 that have been removed. The May 31 report listed 36 short-term and 97 long-term advisories. While back in December 31, 2016, the report listed 31 short-term and 96 long-term.

The numbers for both categories remained fairly steady over eight months, although these numbers don't take into account the advisories that have been added and removed from the list and does not include numbers for British Columbia and Saskatoon Tribal Council Communities. Only ten new long-term advisories were added this year, previously, they were usually on the list for at least twelve months. There appears to be more short-term advisories over the last few months.

We contacted the Matachewan First Nation, which was under a short-term advisory earlier this year, to find out why that might be.

"It may be due to a number of factors," Band Manager Marilyn Groulx said. She added that it may be due to the "funding directed toward water health and safety, training programs for First Nations personnel." It could also be there are "better monitoring systems and qualified personnel monitoring the systems," she said.

Groulx explained that the advisory that was issued for the Matachewan First Nation in July was precautionary and was "due to a power outage." She continued by adding "the generator which kicks on when power is out, ran out of gas."

Despite progress, water advisories seem to re-occur in the same communities over and over again. One familiar name keeps appearing on the federal advisory list, Kashechewan. Maryse Durette, Senior Media Relations Advisor for Health Canada, confirmed that "over the past two years (2016-17), there have been nine precautionary drinking water advisories issued in Kashechewan First Nation." She added that "three of these were triggered by power failures and the remaining advisories were caused by various issues such as pipe breaks, pump failures or excess water demands."

The most recent advisory in the community was issued on August 28, 2017 and "was rescinded on September 1, 2017 after necessary work was completed and sampling verified that the community water was safe to drink," Durette said.

Short-term water advisories are put in place to address "a temporary water issue," according to the HC website. For a list of the short-term advisories, click here.







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