Water purification unit heads to Kashechewan

As evacuations continue, a water purification unit has been sent to a James Bay Cree reserve that is plagued by contaminated and over-chlorinated water.

One of the Canadian military's water purification units has been sent to Kashechewan to help residents of the troubled Cree reserve in northern Ontario.

A Canadian Forces support team flew out of CFB Trenton Saturday aboard two Hercules aircraft. The unit can produce 50,000 litres of purified water a day.

The federal government decided to transport about 1,100 of the 1,900 residents of the James Bay reserve to other communities after tainted water made hundreds of them sick.

Two weeks ago, people found out their drinking water, described as beige in colour, was contaminated with E. coli.

The provincial government started the evacuation operation on Thursday, moving some residents to hospitals for treatment. About half the residents have reported skin conditions resulting from the contaminated and over-chlorinated water.

So far, Sudbury, Timmins and Cochrane have accepted people from the Kashechewan First Nation. However, the Ontario agency organizing the evacuation is now looking for other communities that can take in the displaced people. 

Officials in both Timmins and Sudbury have said they can't accommodate any more evacuees.

The federal government has promised to relocate Kashechewan to higher ground within five to 10 years to help alleviate spring flooding.

Prime Minister Paul Martin said Friday that the government will do "whatever is necessary" to make drinking water safe on Canada's native reserves.

Water treatment regulations do not exist on reserves as they do in every other municipality in Canada, said federal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanj, a situation he said must be changed.

As the federal government scrambles to deal with contaminated water in Kashechewan, aboriginal people in other provinces say they have similar problems. People on 95 First Nations are living under orders by Health Canada to boil their water.