‘We can make a huge difference’ if we invest in training people, says Safe Water Project’s Barry Strachan
Three northern Ontario First Nations have managed to stop boil water advisories in their communities since May because of access to a new real-time water quality monitoring system. Deer Lake, Fort Severn, and Poplar Hill First Nations have all spent close to 1,000 days on a boil water advisory in the past decade.
“Historically, what’s happened, is there’s a time delay. When you take a [water] sample, analyse it and get the results to those that can do things about it, it can often mean people are at high risks for a [longer] period of time,” said Barry Strachan, the lead on the Safe Water Project.
Strachan says that outdated process often lead to boil water advisories and do not consume orders. The Safe Water project provides the technology and support to respond immediately to potential problems.
“We get alerts of adverse water quality events immediately as they happen and it allows us to [advise] or actually attend the situation and fix it in short order,” said Strachan.
The Safe Water Project, located in Dryden, Ontario, is a initiative of Keewaytinook Okimakanak: Northern Chiefs Council (K.O.) and Dryden Centre of Excellence.
The pilot started six months ago, with a promise of one year of funding.
New concept for First Nations
The real-time monitoring system is one of three components of the project. It also provides qualified staff, who are always accessible to trainees, even when they are back in their home communities.
Strachan says communities have 24/7 access to two technicians in Dryden. If an operator sends an alert, the details of the problem are automatically sent via cellphone.
The key to the program is the certification operators get through the province of Ontario, which allows them to work anywhere in Canada (aside from Quebec because it has different standards).
He says for far too long, operators just haven’t had the “academic background.”
“If we invest in the people who are running the plants, we can make a huge difference,” said Strachan.
A recent CBC News investigation revealed 20 reserves across the country have had a drinking water advisory (DWA) longer than 10 years.
Two K.O. communities have gone more than 13 years with bad water. North Spirit Lake ranks ninth in the country with a total of 4,900 days under a boil water advisory. Deer Lake finishes tenth with 4,808 days.
For the rest of this article, click here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/bad-water-innovative-solution-ontario-first-nations-1.3278480