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Manitoba streamlines bacteriological tests for water in northern Indigenous sites

Water sampling stock photo. Credit: kurgu128, stock.adobe.com

Manitoba officials are investing in an automated microbiology testing system based in the City of Thompson that would expedite drinking water testing for three remote northern First Nation communities.

The testing facility will house a system made by Canadian water technology firm TECTA-PDS that’s capable of providing laboratory-grade results on-site with time-to-result performance. If bacteria are found in any water sample, an early warning notice is sent out, allowing for a faster response to adverse water quality tests by the Indigenous communities of Pikwitonei, Thicket Portage and Nelson House.

Manitoba Environment, Climate and Parks Minister Jeff Wharton said that sending water quality samples to Winnipeg has proven challenging, and that the new $30,000 investment in the TECTA system will streamline the testing process.

“This testing site will help reduce delays and uncertainties associated with shipping water samples from the north, and helps communities improve compliance with water quality testing requirements and confirm the ongoing safety of their water supplies,” Wharton announced in a statement to media.

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Pikwitonei Mayor Brenda Flett said that water samples previously sent to Winnipeg were often in danger of getting lost or damaged due to temperature fluctuations during transport.

“Having the testing location closer will allow us to get results faster with easier delivery,” announced Flett in a joint statement.

Officials said that they hope the new testing protocol will ultimately help to reduce potential water advisories within the communities. The water samples will be collected and then delivered to the Thompson testing facility, which is within 70 kilometres of all three communities partnering on the pilot program. The TECTA machine will analyze the sample and automatically report results directly to the province’s Office of Drinking Water.

The testing facility is a cross-departmental collaboration between Manitoba Environment, Climate and Parks and Manitoba Indigenous, Reconciliation and Northern Relations. Depending on the success of the pilot project, the province said it could be expanded in the future to include other northern communities.

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