(Photo: Chief Arthur Moore)
APTN National News
CONSTANCE LAKE, Ont.–Indian Affairs is forcing the reduction of bottled water shipments to a northern Ontario First Nations that has been without a clean water supply source since this summer, according to the band chief.
Constance Lake Chief Arthur Moore said Indian Affairs says it will now only pay for 1.5 litres of water a day for every person in the community. The community had been shipping in six litres of water a day for every person since late July when it decided that algae-covered Constance Lake was no longer a safe source of water for the community with a population of 900, said Moore, in a telephone interview.
“I am absolutely outraged with this decision. Access to a safe and usable water supply is the right of every person living in this country,” said Moore.
Constance Lake is about 940 kilometres north of Toronto.
Moore said he only found out Thursday evening that the department had decided to force the reduction of water shipments on Nov. 15. He said this was done despite Health Canada advising the community it needed at least seven litres of water a day for drinking and personal hygiene.
“I continue to fear that the lack of clean water will lead to despair and ill health for the people of Constance Lake First Nation,” he said.
Moore said he is worried about the elders and pregnant women in his community.
Indian Affairs’ Ontario regional office said they were looking into the issue.
Moore said the community has spent $56,000 on shipping water. The money has been taken from other band program and services and they need Indian Affairs to cover the costs. The band has been paying about $6 for eight litres of water.
Moore said the community had to stop drawing water from Constance Lake because the body of water is slowly dying and has a thick layer of algae. He said the community is working on pumping water to their treatment plant from an underground well by January as an interim measure.
The band is currently also looking at long-term sources of water and hoping to receive funding to replace the aging treatment plant.
The community is also currently receiving tanker loads of water for laundry, dish washing and toilets from a private co-generation power station about seven kilometers from the community that is drawing water from the Kabina River.
Moore, however, is concerned about the community’s ability to continue supplying an adequate amount of drinking water to its residents.
In addition to the department’s decision to cut the amount of water they’ll pay for, the bottled water distributor in Cochrane, Ont., has decided to terminate its current contract.
Moore said the band council is now looking at other distributors in Thunder Bay and Timmins,Ont.
“It’s not a good situation,” he said.