Grassy Narrows declares State of Emergency over unsafe drinking water

Mark Calzavara
5 years ago

Turbidity exceeded limit by 120x, uranium and possible carcinogens found in samples

Today the Grassy Narrows First Nation declared a state of emergency over unsafe drinking water conditions in the community.  The community has started delivering bottled water door to door to ensure that their families, many of which have already been impacted by mercury poisoning, have safe drinking water. 

Drinking water tests done by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment found turbidity at a level 120 times the safety limit.  Chemicals that are possible human carcinogens were also present at elevated levels. 

Parts of the community have been on a “Do Not Consume” water order for over 2 years due to elevated levels of uranium, while the entire community has been on a “Boil Water” order for over a year. However, boiling water does not remove the chemicals that are a possible carcinogen

The boil water advisory was issued after a drinking water specialist from the Ministry of the Environment began visiting the treatment plant and monitoring the drinking water in May 2014.  He quickly found that turbidity levels were at 120 NTU, while the health limit for turbidity is 1 NTU and the guideline goal is 0.1 NTU.

 Further testing this summer identified tricholormethanes  (THMs), haloacetic acids (HAAs), and hexaclorcyclopentadiene in the drinking water.  These are disinfectant byproducts (DBPs) that are likely created when chlorine treatment reacts with organic matter in the turbid water.  DBPs are considered to be a possible human carcinogen and have been linked to cancer of the liver and bladder.  They are not removed by boiling. 

Basic parts of the water treatment plant are missing while others are broken.  The low-income community lacks funds to carry out the necessary repairs and upgrades. 

Water treatment on reserves is primarily a federal responsibility.

The CBC reported in June that Aboriginal Affairs held back more than $1 billion in promised spending for social services over the last five years, more than any other federal department. 

As outlined in the Alternative Federal Budget, the Council of Canadians is calling for a national water policy that includes a 10-year plan investing $4.7 billion for water and wastewater facilities on First Nation reserves. To send a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and prime minister hopefuls Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair demanding a national water policy, click here.

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