Grassy Narrows First Nation declares emergency over bad water
Uranium, potential cancer-causing agents found in samples, First Nation says
The First Nation, also known as Asubpeechoseewagong, is located about 100 kilometres north of Kenora, Ont. and has been under a boil water advisory for more than a year, but new concerns are emerging about the extent and longevity of the problems.
"Enough is enough," Fobister said. "We've been asking questions, we've been asking the federal government to upgrade our water plant. You know the people are not going to drink this toxic water another day."
The community's water plant is about a decade old and has never functioned properly, but the First Nation can't afford to fix it, and there is no funding available from the federal government, he said.
The presence of DBPs came to light as part of an investigation into whether mercury was making it into drinking water at Grassy Narrows.
"We're very familiar with the mercury situation we have, that mercury is a very powerful poison. Now these are added ones," Fobister said. "So that was a very huge concern in our tap water."
A 2001 risk assessment of the water system at Grassy Narrows by the Bimose Tribal Council showed the presence of the same problems with turbidity and DBPs noted in a 2015 letter to the chief from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.
Uranium is also present in well water used by some residents at Grassy Narrows. A 2011 report commissioned by the (then) Department of Indian Affairs states the well water fails to meet the required health guidelines because of uranium.
The Health Canada website shows a Do Not Consume order was issued for the well water system at Grassy Narrows in 2013.
A spokesperson for Health Canada told CBC News that the department has a mandate to work in partnership with First Nations on water quality issues, but it is up to chiefs and councils to determine when to declare water advisories.
Fobister said he notified Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada earlier this week that the community was declaring a state of emergency and that bottled water will be trucked in from Winnipeg until people are assured of the safety of their water.
It'll cost about $50,000 per month to deliver water to 240 homes once a week, he said.
That money, Fobister said, could have been better spent fixing the water plant and answering the community's questions.
CBC News asked Aboriginal Affairs for a response to the state of emergency at Grassy Narrows. A spokesperson did not meet our deadline.