Fort McKay tainted water solution exists, expert says
Pre-filtration method successful but likely costly
A special filtration system installed at a northern Alberta First Nation is being endorsed by experts as the potential answer for the drinking-water concerns at Fort McKay.
The Fort McKay First Nation has been relying on bottled water due to fears that the community's municipal-supplied water may be tainted by high levels of cancer-causing chemical compounds found in samples.
But David Schindler, a world-reknowned water expert working with the non-profit Safe Drinking Water Foundation, argues a method of reverse-osmosis currently used at the Saddle Lake aboriginal community is the solution that should be adapted to Fort McKay.
The problem at Fort McKay is that byproducts of water treatment known as trihalomethanes, which are believed to be cancer-causing, are created when organic materials get chlorinated during the treatment process.
Schindler said that the Safe Drinking Water Foundation's recent work at Saddle Creek included setting up an innovative system that can rid the water of carbon before it gets treated.
$13M to install system
It breaks down the large organic molecules, which can then be gobbled up by bacteria, he said.
"The engineer for Safe Drinking Water fit the systems with a biological pre-filter, which basically uses a bacterial culture to break the high carbon down to where it's undetectable," Schindler explained. "If there's undetectable carbon, the problem goes away."
While Schindler was adamant that this is the solution, he warned it won't be cheap.
The Saddle Lake solution cost $13.1 million to install, according to Tony Steinhauer, who operates the Saddle Lake water treatement plant.
The NDP critic for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Linda Duncan, plans to ask the federal government to find a solution to Fort McKay's problem this week.