Sachigo Lake First Nation community members can now enjoy clean water from their taps after construction wrapped up at their water treatment plant – ending their long-term boil water advisory.
Indigenous Services Canada says the boil water advisory was lifted on October 12 after an upgrade to the community’s water treatment system and expansion of the wastewater lagoon. The advisory had affected nearly 200 homes and 5 community buildings.
“We’ve now lifted 136 long-term drinking water advisories since 2015, and we’ll keep working until all remaining advisories have been lifted,” wrote Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on social media.
“Everywhere a long-term drinking water advisory remains, there is a project team and action plan in place to resolve it,” adds Trudeau.
As Trudeau notes, Ottawa has spent $5.6 billion to end 136 long-term drinking water advisories on First Nation communities since 2015.
Still, 31 long-term advisories remain in 27 communities across the country. Northwestern Ontario has the highest concentration of these affected communities in all of Canada, with 17 projects still underway.
The Liberal government originally committed to eliminating all long-term drinking water advisories by March 2021. The goal wasn’t reached, but another $1.5 billion was pledged to accelerate their work.
A federal report from late 2021 showed that the government’s planned spending on First Nation water projects is enough to build the infrastructure needed to end the remaining advisories – but their spending isn’t enough to operate or maintain those systems.
The report shows that planned spending from the government will only cover just two-thirds of the funding needed, suggesting an average annual funding gap of $138 million to operate and maintain water and wastewater systems.
As of 2020-2021, all water and wastewater operating and maintenance costs are covered by Indigenous Services Canada. Previously, ISC covered 80 per cent of the costs, with First Nations being responsible for the remainder.