First Nations seek funding for program that helped teen fix his community's water problem
Safe Water project helped 3 First Nations lift boil water advisories last year
The program that helped a 19-year-old solve his First Nations' drinking water problems is seeking federal funding to continue.
Keewaytinook Okimakanak's (Northern Chiefs Council) Safe Water project provides real-time monitoring of water treatment plants in five First Nations in northwestern Ontario. It also provides support, training and certification for water plant operators.
The initiative was funded as a pilot project in 2015. Since then, three of the First Nations involved have been able to lift their boil water advisories.
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A fourth community — North Spirit Lake First Nation — is expected to have safe drinking water in June after its water plant operator, Quentin Rae, 19, completes his certification through the program.
"Our experience has shown that building new infrastructure alone will not end boil water advisories," said Geordi Kakepetum, executive director of Keewaytinook Okimakanak. "Other elements must be in place to support both new and existing infrastructure, such as providing training and operational support to water plant operators, and monitoring water on a continuous basis."
First Nations leaders involved in the project are scheduled to meet with the regional director general of Indigenous Affairs Canada on May 9 to secure ongoing funding.
This spring's federal budget included nearly $2 billion for water and wastewater infrastructure over five years to end boil water advisories in First Nations, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has committed to doing within five years.
Thirty-nine First Nations in northern Ontario are under boil water advisories, according to the most recent information from Health Canada.
Keewaytinook Okimakanak says 14 First Nations, in addition to the ones it already oversees, are interested in taking part in the Safe Water project.