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First Nations water news update

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After a busy month for First Nations water news, Environmental Science & Engineering Magazine takes a look at several new developments across Canada.

Plant Upgrade and Water Distribution Expansion

Up to $6 million in funding from Indigenous Services Canada has been announced to advance the design and construction of a water treatment plant upgrade and water distribution expansion for Nibinamik First Nation in northern Ontario.

Once complete, the project will eliminate the drinking water advisory that has affected the community of 360 residents since 2013. Construction is set to begin in spring 2020 and is projected to be completed in spring 2021.

“What Nibinamik needs is a long-term, reliable solution to our infrastructure crisis,” said Nibinamik First Nation Chief Johnny Yellowhead in a media statement. “With this funding Canada is finally signalling that it sees the need to provide more than a band-aid approach and that is a very positive step forward,” he added.

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The First Nations reserve is located approximately 500 km northwest of Thunder Bay.

Single-Use Plastic Ban 

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted facts about Canada’s plastic waste on June 10, several prominent Indigenous Twitter accounts had some new context to add to the discussion. As Trudeau tweeted about how “Canadians throw away 3 million tonnes of plastic waste every year,” some of the Canadians who depend on bottled water being shipped to reserves as their only means of drinking water were quick to point out the reality of Trudeau’s pending move towards a science-based approach to ending single-use plastics by 2021.

One commenter, Haudeno Shouty, responded to Trudeau by noting, “My family would have less plastic waste if we didn’t rely on bottled water for fresh drinking water on reserve.” Shouty, whose real name is Courtney Skye, lives in the Six Nations of the Grand River in southern Ontario, where only part of the community is connected to a water line fed by a state-of-the-art UV water treatment plant.

A complete federal list of exactly which single-use plastic items could be banned in Canada has yet to emerge. 

Reserve Advisories Update 

In May 2019, five short-term drinking water advisories at risk of becoming long-term were lifted from public systems on reserves. One long-term drinking water advisory on a public system on a reserve was added. No long-term drinking water advisories were lifted.

A drinking water advisory at Standing Buffalo, in Saskatchewan, became long-term on May 9 after being in place for more than a year. Operation and maintenance repairs to the existing water treatment system have been completed and options to address plant capacity issues or reduce demand are being explored. Indigenous Services Canada continues to work with the community to complete a long-term recapitalization and capacity expansion of the water treatment plant. These longer-term upgrades are projected to be complete by December 2020.

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