New operating and maintenance standards for First Nations water systems won’t mean a big change for Lil’Wat Nation (Mount Currie) – they already have procedures, standards and training in place.
“It’s not a concern, our water is pretty good,” said Frank Andrew, Mount Currie’s public works managers.
“We don’t really need to chlorinate but we do because of Health Canada regulations,” Andrew said.
The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development announced new procedures and standards for First Nations’ drinking water last week. Included in the plan is mandatory training for treatment plant operators and standards for systems design, construction, operation and maintenance.
“Cost of training will be covered by INAC,” said Indian Affairs spokesperson Lisa Barrett. “Once they’re trained, the First Nation’s water person would be maintaining the water system, making sure things are kept up to date and monitored.”
Lil’Wat Nation has two water systems with 200 homes each serviced by two water technicians, one of whom is certified. Andrew said the technicians have been attending regular water workshops in Merritt and Kamloops conducted by the British Columbia Waste and Water Association.
The drinking water protocol was endorsed by Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
“[This] announcement is an encouraging first step in our larger efforts to close the gap in the quality of life between First Nations and non-Aboriginal Canadians,” Fontaine said.
Federal Minister of Health Tony Clement also supported the action plan.
“Health Canada will support this plan by enhancing a monitoring system that serves as an early warning for potential risks to public health, and by providing additional support to identified communities most at risk,” the Minister said.
The protocol, to be implemented by the fall, includes not only operational and training initiatives, but includes standards for remote monitoring of water systems and contracting out supervisory independent certified operators.