Northern Ontario First Nations reserve ends 18-year drinking water advisory

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First Nations Water Advisory Update Graphic
Credit: Indigenous Services Canada

Long-term drinking water advisories at three separate First Nations reserves were lifted over the last month, including one that had been in place for 18 years, the Canadian government announced.

Long-term water advisories, which take effect if concerns have been present for more than one year, have been lifted at two Ontario reserves where water and wastewater facility upgrades occurred, including the Northwest Angle No. 37 reserve at Windigo Island and North Spirit Lake in the north of the province. The third long-term advisory was lifted in Saskatchewan for the Nekaneet First Nations, where similar treatment facility upgrades took place.

The advisory for the North Spirit Lake First Nations in northern Ontario had been in place since the summer of 2001. It was recently lifted for the population of about 263 residents following repairs and upgrades to the community’s water treatment plant and distribution system. Also, North Spirit Lake received operational support from the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Water and Wastewater Operations Hub.

The advisory for the Northwest Angle No. 37 First Nations at Windigo Island had been in place since February 2015. Treatment technology upgrades were completed as interim solutions at its water treatment plant to restore safe drinking water. The federal government says it’s working to advance a long-term solution that will meet the safe drinking water needs of the community for the next 20 years.

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In Saskatchewan, operational improvements and repairs to the community’s water treatment plant and distribution system have ended a long-term water advisory that had been in effect since October 26, 2017.

“More progress was made in the last month with partners on our government’s commitment to lifting all long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserve by March 2021,” announced the Minister of Indigenous Services, Seamus O’Regan, in a statement. “I am confident that with the hundreds of projects underway and completed that we will be successful in this commitment in the next two years,” he added.

Three short-term water advisories were also lifted over the last month. At Deer Lake First Nation, and Webequie First Nation, both in Ontario, water main repair ended those advisories, while a new pipe ended an advisory at the Star Blanket Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.

As of mid-March, 59 long-term drinking water advisories for public systems on reserve were in effect, but are expected to be cut to 35 by the end of 2019. By March of 2021 the federal government aims to have ended all long-term drinking water advisories on public systems financially supported by Indigenous Services Canada.

Of the projects underway to address the remaining long-term drinking water advisories:

  • 31 are in the construction phase
  • 21 are in the design phase
  • 8 are in the feasibility stage to determine infrastructure needs

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