Colville Lake has been under a boil water advisory since 2004, but chief doesn't care

“The water is clean, it’s good, it’s cleaner than anywhere else ... I don't get a stomach ache or anything," says Colville Lake Chief Wilbert Kochon.

Wilbert Kochon drinks straight from the lake, says community has some of the cleanest water in the world

Colville Lake Chief Wilbert Kochon says many elders in the community prefer to drink straight from the lake because they don't like to drink chlorinated water. (Hilary Bird/CBC)

For the past 14 years, Colville Lake, N.W.T. has been under a boil water advisory.

The reason isn't due to lack of access to a water treatment plant or proper training to operate it — the community doesn't bother to send water samples to the territorial government for sampling because residents believe their water is clean enough to drink straight from the lake.

"We don't need it," said Colville Lake Chief Wilbert Kochon, who says he hauls his own snow, ice and water straight from Colville Lake to drink.

"The water is clean, it's good, it's cleaner than anywhere else ... I don't get a stomach ache or anything."

According to the territorial government's 2016 report on drinking water, Colville Lake sent in merely two per cent of its mandated quota for water sampling in 2016. That's down from 13 per cent the year before.

The government requires communities outside Yellowknife send in 48 samples per year. The requirement for the territorial capital is 228 per year. The sampling is required to make sure chlorine treatment is working properly to kill bacteria.

Many elders don't like chlorinated water

But Kochon said many of the community's elders drink straight from the lake because they don't like to drink chlorinated water.

Colville Lake's water treatment plant opened in 2007. It's classified as a small system plant, which means it uses a simple filter and chlorination process.

According to Kochon, the community utilizes the plant because it's required by law, but many in the community only use tap water for showering and cleaning.

Kochon said he believes the lake water is clean, and it's evident when the community changes the filters at the plant each month.

"Even after a month, there's hardly any dirt in it," said Kochon.

'We are not too worried about contamination'

According to territorial government engineer Justin Hazenberg, the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs assists communities with the provision of clean drinking water and the Department of Health enforces regulations.

Hazenberg's department helps communities with training and support to run their water treatment plants and can assist with funding for projects as well.

The department also offers courses so community residents can receive plant operator training and for those finding it harder to travel, trainers can go to communities for hands-on guidance.

But when it comes to worrying about water contamination in the territory, Hazenberg says N.W.T. residents are very fortunate.

"Our sites are well sited away from the landfills and sewage lagoons, we don't have significant industrial or agricultural influences on our drinking water supplies, so we are not too worried about contamination," said Hazenberg.

"However, we still treat to the national standards."