The federal government has spent millions of dollars shipping bottled water to a remote First Nation community with an ineffective water treatment plant.
Marten Falls First Nation has had a boil water advisory since 2007. Bottled water is the community’s only access to clean drinking water, and as a result the First Nation has had to rely on that bottled water being shipped from Thunder Bay about twice a week.
These shipments have been coming in for nearly five years and the shipping costs are estimated to be more than $300,000 annually. The situation is also costing Marten Falls, which has to send discarded water bottles to the community’s landfill. Most of what remains has been burned up along with other thrown away items such as stoves and fridges.
Deon Peters is the head operator at the treatment plant and said the community has outgrown the facility since it was built in 1997. For the past 10 years, officials at the plant have noticed a decline in water quality. “It’s not running as well as it should,” Peters said.
“When Indian and Northern Affairs Canada built the plant they only had a design in mind for 20 years and now it has exceeded that capacity. Basically we don’t have the part we need in order to fix this. We need a whole new water plant.”
Engineers, who arrived about a month ago, were at the plant on Thursday to take water samples. But Peters was skeptical that the new parts would arrive anytime soon.
He said the cost for a new water plant would be around $5 million.
“Because we have one filter, it does the whole job of a convention plant,” he said.
“I think it was under designed. When we add the chemical there’s not enough retention time going into the filter so it does all the flocking in the wells. The well isn’t drinkable because of the chemicals in the water.”
Marten Falls Chief Eli Moonias said thankfully no one has become sick because of drinking of the water.