Moving drinking water issues forward
In my opinion, the federal government has a tremendous opportunity to move drinking water issues forward in First Nation communities. It has access to raw and treated water data from all Canadian reserves. It should not take long to compare raw and treated water data and determine what works and what doesn’t.
The federal government also needs to obtain data on treated water that has gone through the water treatment process and after it has been chlorinated. This is before the water has been stored in the treated water reservoirs. With this information it will be possible to determine the impacts of water quality changes in the treated water reservoirs and distribution system.
Responsibility and liability for drinking water quality
A First Nation community has to demand that its new/retrofitted water treatment plant will meet the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality as there is no federal legislation requiring this. First Nation communities are left vulnerable to poor quality tap water. Most cities in Canada, in addition to meeting these guidelines, also aim to meet the more stringent U.S. EPA regulations. And, cities treat much better quality raw water sources.
Community members that are exposed to unsafe drinking water can actually take legal action against their Chief and Council. This is because the federal government signed over responsibility and liability for First Nations drinking water to Chiefs and Councils in 2007. Since then, some First Nations have handed back responsibility and liability for water to the federal government.
Dr. Hans Peterson is the Safe Drinking Water Ambassador of the Safe Drinking Water Foundation and a member of the Safe Drinking Water Team. This article appeared in ES&E Magazine’s September/October 2015 issue.
The Safe Drinking Water Foundation (SDWF) formed an Advanced Aboriginal Water Treatment Team (AAWTT) more than 10 years ago. As water issues have grown so have the activities of the SDWF and in 2014 the AAWTT was transformed into the Safe Drinking Water Team (SDWT) with its own website. Its mission is to help First Nations and rural water operators with water treatment issues. For more information, visit: www.safedrinkingwaterteam.org