November 7, 2005

Ontario MOE sends experts to test water, sewage systems on First Nation reserve

As part of a comprehensive response plan to help residents of the Kashechewan First Nation Reserve deal with the emergency affecting their community, the Ontario Ministry of Environment (MOE) has sent an expert technical team to assess the drinking water and sewage systems in Kashechewan. An emergency evacuation of about 60% of the community's residents was carried out late last month as a result of infrastructure and health problems caused by a contaminated water system on the reserve.

As of November 1, more than 815 residents had been airlifted to other Ontario communities, and local leaders singled out another 87 residents requiring evacuation from Kashechewan. The airlift operation was co-ordinated by the Ministry of Natural Resources.

The MOE expert team, led by Jim Smith, Ontario's chief drinking water inspector, assessed the community's drinking water system, its wastewater system and sewage lagoons. Results of 14 samples taken from the water treatment plant and the distribution system over the weekend of October 29 and 30 found no E coli or total coliform bacteria in any of the samples.

Smith subsequently wrote to the chief of the Kashechewan First Nation Reserve and to Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), advising them of the test results. The chief inspector said he intends to provide both parties a full report by November 10. The report will detail the results of MOE's source-to-tap assessment of the drinking water system and will include the results of all water quality analysis and information on the assessment of the sewage system.

By the end of last week, clean water was available in Kashechewan, a military water purification system having produced 300,000 litres of safe drinking water. A stockpile of clean water is being stored in the community.

Certified water treatment plant operators are standing by to stabilize plant operations, and the necessary repairs and upgrades to the water and wastewater systems will continue until the plant is fully functional. A boil-water advisory will remain in effect, however, until the water treatment plant is capable of producing a continuous supply of clean water.

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