B.C. First Nation celebrates end of drinking water advisory

By Marc Lalonde

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A B.C. First Nation is celebrating the end of a long-term drinking-water advisory that has plagued the community for the last four years, the nation announced last week.


The Okanagan Indian Band held a Water Celebration April 5 to mark the completion of their water systems improvement project, thereby ending a long-term drinking-water advisory that had been in place since 2019.


Elevated levels of manganese were cited as the cause of the advisory, which meant his meant that bottle-fed infants and expecting mothers had to use bottled water.


Notwithstanding the elevated levels of manganese, the community also did not have access to adequate water reservoir capacity, limiting their ability to provide sufficient fire protection.


Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis said the water-systems improvements are a massive relief to the community.


“The improvements to the water systems have brought relief to many members on reserve. We were always concerned about the quality of the water and having enough water for both domestic use and firefighting,” he said. “With the improvements to the water systems, we are all breathing easier because people have clean water, our manganese warnings are no longer required, and we have enough water for emergencies such as fires.”


The improvements made to the Six Mile/Bradley Creek system, which provides the community with water, includes upgraded water supply wells, expansion and updating of the water treatment system and doubling of reservoir capacity.


The system was then connected to two new, larger reservoirs with a control station also being added.


A federal investment of $11.7 million helped make the improvements possible and provide the community with a higher level of peace of mind in terms of fire protection.


Federal Indigenous Services minister Patty Hajdu said the community can now enjoy healthy and safe access to drinking water.


“The completion of water system upgrades in the Okanagan Indian Band means that water quality advisories can be lifted, and better access to water reservoirs will mean better fire protection in the community,” she said. “The federal government partnered with the Okanagan Indian Band for this project by investing $11.7 million towards the upgrades. Water is life, and this work together ensures healthy and safe access to water for generations to come.”


Currently, 32 drinking-water advisories remain in 28 Indigenous communities across the country.


 Marc Lalonde is a  Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with IORI:WASE. LJI is a federally funded program.

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