The Attawapiskat First Nation living in Northern Ontario has declared a state of emergency due to their highly chemically polluted water.
The tap water has been undrinkable for almost ten years, but as of July 2019, people see serious health problems emerging and want this issue to be dealt with.
The chemicals involved are high-level disinfectant byproducts such as trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs). At this point, people don’t even feel safe bathing their children due to side effects like nosebleeds.
CTV News reports an interview with Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Reagan:
“Right now, they are frightened. Anybody in Canada can relate, when you are frightened of your water supply, that is very real,” said O’Regan, who spent hours with community members Sunday taking questions and laying out an action plan based on their concerns.
In addition to medical teams to assess children and adults with health concerns, Ottawa will bring in technicians to begin immediate work, which would include essentially flushing the entire water system, he said. The federal government says that $1.5 million has been approved for immediate repairs to the reserve’s existing water treatment plant and that clean drinking water is available from a second system. Ottawa may begin planning for a new water treatment centre altogether, he added, but talks will be ongoing with members of the First Nation.”
This issue is part of a nationwide problem concerning the underfunding of Indigenous reserves.
People are anxious and worried that short term ‘band aid’ solutions will not solve the problem and want their water system completely overhauled.
Solutions are being implemented immediately, but a longer-term plan still needs to be nutted out and put into action.
Alternatives Journal reports that it’s not only the Attawapiskat First Nation that suffers from water problem but also other 146 First Nations communities under a long-term Drinking Water Advisory, a water advisory created when water quality falls short of Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines.
According to the article, Canada’s indigenous communities’ water problem is a historical one that traces back to its colonialist legacy.
First Nation communities have been deprived of quality water infrastructure and decision-making on land-uses that have degraded their waterscapes and landscapes throughout the years.
The article says that solutions for water problems range from applying innovative and appropriate technologies, addressing the power imbalance between the indigenous and non-indigenous communities, and including indigenous communities in the decision-making process.