The construction of new water treatment plants in two First Nations communities means that Indigenous Services Canada has lifted two more long-term drinking water advisories in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Initiatives are underway to address the remaining 51 long-term drinking water advisories in effect in 32 First Nation communities across Canada. According to Indigenous Services Canada, the increase in operations and maintenance funding has already started flowing directly to First Nations, with $150 million in operations and maintenance top-ups having been provided by the end of 2020-21.
“The funding will enable an increase to 100%, up from 80%, of formula-based funding for operations and maintenance, and will support First Nations to better sustain the approximately 1,200 water and wastewater systems across the country,” states Indigenous Services Canada.
One of the most recent First Nation communities to lift an advisory is White Bear First Nation in Saskatchewan, southeast of Regina. The community has constructed a new water treatment plant and removed in-home filters to ensure they did not become a cause of contamination. A total of 180 homes and nine community buildings now have reliable access to safe drinking water, after being under a boil water advisory since September 2011, according to Indigenous Services Canada.
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In 2017, some $9.2 million was invested to replace the White Bear community’s water treatment system with the intention of having the boil water advisory lifted within one year, but the project faced delays. The advisory was eventually lifted in June 2021.
Another long-term drinking water advisory has been a challenge for Sapotaweyak Cree Nation’s public water system in Manitoba. The community’s existing water treatment plant was no longer in operation or supplying water to the community due to being undersized and in need of replacement, community officials reported.
Construction of a new water treatment plant has seen water sampling meet required guidelines and the long-term advisory was lifted effective May 20, 2021. The $14.2-million project consisted of an intake, intake pumphouse with wet well, outfall, and 1,350 m3 capacity below-grade concrete reservoir.
Eleven community buildings and 251 homes now have access to safe drinking water following the investment in Sapotaweyak.
Additionally, three short-term drinking water advisories across Canada, lasting between two and 12 months, have been lifted since mid-May.
Despite recent progress, however, a new long-term water advisory has been added for Ontario’s Mitaanjigaming First Nation, where a boil water advisory has been in place for more than a year. The advisory was recommended to support the shutdowns required to complete upgrades to the existing water distribution and treatment systems, federal officials said.
“The project has faced delays due to technical issues and problems with sourcing the necessary equipment and materials; however, upgrades to the water distribution system have been completed and upgrades to the water treatment system are expected to be completed by end of May 2021,” according to Indigenous Services Canada.
It is expected that the Ontario community will be in a position to lift the long-term drinking water advisory in the near future.