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Water Today Title June 29, 2022

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Advisory of the Day



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The Kehewin Cree First Nation, located in Alberta, are in the process of taking measures to end a six year boil water advisory.

The reserve, which is a 20 minute drive from Bonnyville, Alberta and close to the border with Saskatchewan has been under a boil water advisory since April of 2011.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) told this reporter via email that, "The community's raw water source experiences blue-green algae blooms each year and the treatment plant is beyond its lifecycle."

Originally built in the early 1990s, the plant, which draws its water from Lake Kehewin, was supposed to provide water for up to 850 residents. At present there are approximately 1250 living on the reserve. All of whom are affected by the advisory.

Currently, the government and Kehewin Cree Nation are working on a project to complete interim repairs to the existing water treatment plant to ensure it is optimized until a new system is constructed.

Alain Joly, a project manager working for the band's office said that the interim repairs will be to replace parts like valves pumps at the main plant and the pump houses that are used to fill up trucks that deliver the water around the community.

By taking on the $380,000 project, they are attempting to bring the quality level up but don't believe that it will be enough to lift the water advisory.

In the meantime, families are stuck fending for themselves.

"Each individual is using their own methods (to get drinkable water)," Joly said, "At the band office we get bottled water delivered to us. Each home would either do the same or take a chance (with what's delivered to them). If a family can, they buy water, but it can be expensive."

There is hope on the horizon for the community however. INAC told us that a new water treatment plant intended to replace the old one is in the works.

Joly was able to confirm.

"We're in the design phase for the new water treatment plant," he said, adding that they're very close to finished, "We're almost up for tendering, we just need one more meeting. Once it's tendered out we're scheduled for it to be ready for 2019, weather permitting."

Joly is insistent that they don't make the same mistake that happened with the last plant.

"We're taking into account the growth of the community," he said, "It'll have enough capacity to handle growth for the next thirty years."

The project will involve two parts, building the new plant itself and putting in a new transmission line. They are hoping to go from a six inch transmission line to a 10 inch transmission line but haven't received the go ahead to fund it yet.

"We didn't get an answer from the funders yet but we want to get 4.8 km of line so we can bring the water right to the houses, so we don't need to use trucks to deliver the water. We want to service an extra 76 houses."

In April of this year, muddy conditions on the reserve hampered the ability of trucks to reach the houses they were servicing, resulting in a state of emergency being declared.

This advisory is one of 101 First Nations drinking water advisories (DWA) that have been active for over a year. This number doesn't include British Columbia First Nations, Saskatoon Tribal Council or First Nations North of the 60th parallel. As of 2016, Canada has committed to ending long-term DWAs on public systems on reserves within 5 years.

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