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LARGELY IGNORED AT HOME, CANADIAN TECHNOLOGY MAKES FOR SAFER
DRINKING WATER AROUND THE WORLD
By Gillian Ward
Water Today Canada made contact with the Monash Infrastructure (MI) Research Institute in Australia, a world leader in infrastructure research and development. MI Environmental and Public Health Microbiology Lab spokesperson Rebekah Henry confirmed the successful deployment of Canadian water technology that is improving the safety of public drinking water in remote, water sensitive sites in Australia.
Tecta-PDS is the Ontario based manufacturer of Tecta B16, a breakthrough technology that provides rapid detection of "Escherichia coli", better known as e-coli. Necessity being the mother of invention, the rapid detection test process was developed at Queen's University in the aftermath of the Walkerton disaster, where near half of the town's 5000 inhabitants became gravely ill and seven died from e-coli tainted drinking water. With the Tecta B16 device, e-coli can be detected with a simple "plug and play" test that generates results in a matter of hours. The genius of this technology is that it can be performed on site at the water treatment facility, eliminating the need to ship samples out of remote locations, cutting days off the testing timeline.
Tim Adams and Doug Wilton founded Tecta-PDS to manufacture and deliver the Canadian-developed safe drinking water technology. Adams explains that e-coli is the key marker for drinking water, the "canary in the coal mine", the first indication of trouble, demanding a rapid response, automatically alerting multiple contacts to initiate emergency protocol. With e-coli being detected, further analysis can be undertaken to determine the presence of the slower growing pathogens, which are more costly tests, requiring a longer time to process. Typically, by the time cryptosporidium is detected, population health has been compromised, so e-coli is the preferred determinant for safe water.
With the successful application of the Tecta B16 in 35 countries, Water Today sought contact with Indigenous Services Canada to find out how our homegrown innovation is benefitting the remote communities in Canada. In an official statement, ISC spokesperson William Olscamp acknowledged the Tecta B16 technology was initially deployed in January 2014 in three communities in Quebec, including Kahnawake. Today, over twenty communities in Quebec have incorporated the e-coli detection equipment in their field biological testing protocols. (Kahnawake Water Treatment manager was unavailable for comment)
Public Works Canada posted a Standing Offer earlier this year for the Tecta Pathogen Detection System Tecta B16 and its requisite patented consumables, at a discounted rate extended by the Canadian partners. "We just wanted to do what we could to give back to our own country, as there are so many remote communities in Canada that could benefit", explained Adams. Adams and his business partner remain stymied as to why the Canadian orders have not been coming in.
While ISC does not endorse any particular product or device, Tecta-PDS did meet the requirements for public procurement, eligible for the prairies, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia, with a funding allocation adequate to place the equipment in 200 communities. When we asked First Nations leaders in the approved jurisdictions whether they were aware of the advancement in water testing technology and the Standing Offer, we could not get a response. Manitoba Chief Arlen Dumas did not respond to our request for a comment; Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Vice Chief Morley Watson was likewise unavailable, and Ontario Regional Chief Roseanne Archibald, via dedicated media personnel declined to respond in over a month of inquiries.
One Public Works Councillor responsible for the water treatment plant in his home Nation agreed to be interviewed. Edwin Ananas operates the water treatment facilities for Beardys and Okemasis Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. He told Water Today that e-coli testing is performed at the local Health Clinic, but the test can still take up to 48 hours to produce results. When we asked if he was aware of the rapid detection device from Tecta, his response was negatory. We mentioned the timeline to results being as little as two hours, to which Ananas had one word to reply, "Wow." Asking whether or not this might be useful for Beardy's, Ananas agreed it would be.
Having had their wrists slapped for reaching out to communities directly, Tecta-PDS expressed dismay and confusion about the process of doing business with Canada. "Our product has been distributed to countries where we are dealing in unfamiliar languages, and we have not had so much challenge with deployment of our gear as here at home", says Adams, with dismay.
As per the ISC statement, safe drinking water for all Canadians is a priority for the federal government. In a conference held in Saskatoon this week, Assembly of First Nations policy analysts, lawyers and technicians worked with First Nations leaders and water treatment operators to break down Canada's Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, showing to be an unfunded effort to remove federal liability for the functioning of water services in First Nations communities. Sovereign Indigenous Nations discussed the need to repeal the in-force legislation and replace it with a more robust water standard, including maximum values on chlorine that can be added to drinking water. Water Today will report on the formation of the Saskatchewan First Nations Water Association as the organization brings forward its recommendations for a co-developed water policy.
In terms of communication about advanced technology, Water Today will report on all proven Canadian innovations in drinking water and wastewater treatment, spreading contact information and details for interested community leaders to search out all available solutions for their specific needs. To this end, Water Today will undertake to distribute information on advanced water technology directly to Canada's remote communities, in their own languages.
To link to the Tecta Standing Offer, see https://buyandsell.gc.ca/procurement-data/standing-offers-and-supply-arrangements/HT156-182421-001-PV .
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