Residents report rashes, stomach pains amid water crisis on northern Ontario reserve [North Caribou Lake FN] – by Tanya Talaga (Toronto Star – November 14, 2016)

For the past seven days, nearly 230 households in a remote northwestern Ontario community have gone without clean drinking water and proper sewage. There are four ruptures in the main line that delivers water from a treatment facility to houses in North Caribou (Weagamow) Lake First Nation, said Chief Dinah Kanate. North Caribou is a 45-minute flight north from Sioux Lookout.

North Caribou’s water treatment staff have been working around the clock to try to fix the situation. They need to keep water moving through the line for fear of contamination, said Kanate, but she fears the water is unfit for use. Residents are using the water to wash clothes and bathe in. Samples were taken and flown out to health authorities on Sunday.

“If the pressure is lost, the water will become contaminated,” said Kanate. “What we have now is young children and adults have rashes. Eczema is flaring. People are complaining of stomach pains. Some kids were jumping in the showers and they are coming out with sores.”

Parents whose children have the itchy red rashes worry they are due to contaminated water. A similar fear was reported by parents in Kashechewan First Nation on the James Bay coast.

They also blamed contaminated water for a spate of skin rashes on young children. In March, federal Health Minister Jane Philpott ruled out dirty water as the culprit, after the water was tested. North Caribou’s nursing station is currently without water.

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