Contamination forces Ontario First Nation to close school, fly in bottled water
Weagamow First Nation dealing with water crisis for a week now
By Martha Troian, CBC News, November 14, 2016
People in a northern Ontario First Nation are in crisis mode after the community’s drinking water was contaminated because of broken pipes, forcing bottled water to be flown in and the school to be closed for over a week.
Photos shared on social media show discoloured water that’s come out of taps on the Weagamow First Nation — also known as North Caribou Lake First Nation — located around 320 kilometres north of Sioux Lookout, Ont.
Bottled water flown in
“All last week there was no school,” Kanate said. “We closed down for the whole week … There’s no water in the community.”
The problem stems from four ruptures that were found in pipes that carry water from a treatment facility to homes, according to Chief Dinah Kanate. The pump from the water plant itself is also broken, she said.
“The water system leak has now been isolated and work is underway to restore water service as quickly as possible,” read a statement from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. However, the community could be drinking bottled water for at least two weeks, the department said.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a political organization representing First Nations in northwestern Ontario, has been delivering bottled water to the community since Nov. 8. A total of 800 cases of water have been shipped to the community so far.
A spokesperson from Nishnawbe Aski Nation said the water treatment facility was built in the 1990s and had been operating over capacity with limited human resources for maintenance and repairs.
The Liberal government has vowed to end water problems in First Nation communities within five years and recently announced that $4-million has been earmarked to fix water systems in northern Ontario — though Kanate remains skeptical.
“Right now the way our situation is, I haven’t seen anything,” Kanate said.
Children with rashes
Some people in the community of 900 are also reporting an outbreak of skin rashes among children.
Julie Kenequanash, who has two children, said a rash broke out on her eight-year-old son’s face after taking a shower. A doctor has prescribed an antibiotic to treat it.
“He doesn’t want to take a shower. We’ve been living on boiled water and bottled water,” said Kenequanash.
Her 17-year-old son accidently drank a cup of water two days ago. He is now complaining about a sore tongue.
According to the Indigenous Affairs website, there are 139 First Nations under boil-water advisories; 35 of those communities are represented by NAN.