This year the Port Severn First Nation community will realize a milestone…for the first time in more than two years they will be able to turn on the tap and simply drink the water, without having to boil it first. As of March 20th, 2015, 20% of First Nati0ns were on a drinking water advisory. some experiencing this for years. In the case of the Port Severn First Nations they have modern equipment and facilities, but still faced water advisories. The problem was the lack of skilled operators and the need for help from outside to oversee and assist in the management of the drinking water. Compounding the situation was the remoteness of the communities, especially in winter. It takes time to get in or out.
There are no local labs to test the water. Simple testing could be a challenge….and more time, meanwhile the communities would be vulnerable to contaminated water.
Federal government programs although well intention, quite often we not able to be tailored to a specific situation, and every situation was and is specific.
2015 brought some great change. At the Keewaytinook Centre of Excellence, a world class water operator training facility in Dryden, Ontario native chiefs envisioned the Safe Water Project. This Project has 3 components, training, operational support, and water monitoring. Community members complete training to be certified water operators. As these graduates become operational it is important that they receive support from fully licensed and certified water operators to assist in deepening their skills. Under the third component the local operators and operational support use industry leading water monitoring technology to test the water on a continual basis. Real time data is used to detect adverse issues immediately.
The Safe Water Project has proven to be successful for the Port Severn First Nations, perhaps this can be developed into a larger project benefiting more First Nations.
Ontario’s First Nations Water Woes: Angus Toulouse/Steve Paikin