Indigenous Services Canada speaks to First Nation water issues

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Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is working to deal with drinking water issues on a First Nation near Prince Albert.

People living on the Lac La Ronge Indian Band (LLRIB) side of Little Red Reserve are being given bottled water due to a number of issues with the water infrastructure in the community.

Curtis Bergeron, director for strategic water management at ISC in Ottawa explained the ministry is currently working with LLRIB to find a permanent solution to the water problems. Currently the water coming from the water treatment plant on the Montreal Lake side of Little Red is not considered safe for consumption. Many residents in the community as well have water holding tanks which are damaged and do not keep their water clean.

Bergeron said a range of options are being looked at as part of feasibility study to provide people in Little Red with safe reliable drinking water. This could include fixing the current infrastructure or looking at new forms of water delivery

“The option could include cistern replacement with continued truck haul or connection to another rural system,” he said.

When it comes to getting drinking water to homes at Little Red, Bergeron said there are some challenges due to the way the community is set up. Specifically, that the homes in the community are quite far from each other in distance which means a standard underground system may not be possible.

“A high pressure kind of in ground kind of distribution system can be challenging for a number of reasons, one is, if you don’t have the volume of water running through those pipes then there could be issues with the water quality,” he said.

ISC has recently come under criticism from recently when it comes to working with companies offering technologies which could be helpful to some communities. Bergeron stressed ISC works in partnerships with First Nations when it comes to determining what infrastructure would best serve a community. He added the department does do some research in to water technologies to ensure they are effective. However, Bergeron said decisions in regards to infrastructure are ultimately made by First Nations with ISC playing a supporting role.

“The department doesn’t necessarily go and seek out technologies, we provide advice and guidance to partner First Nations, but maybe more importantly funding support, where as ultimately the decision to put in place a particular solutions is made by First Nation leadership,” he said.

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