Over 800 Wabaseemoong Independent Nation members remain in their homes without any running water after a water treatment plant failure, and provincial and federal agencies are stepping up to support those who stayed behind.
Shortly before Christmas, the Wabaseemoong community lost all access to running water due to mechanical issues at their water treatment plant’s pumphouse, and engineers were quickly dispatched to investigate and repair any issues.
In an updated release from the community, leadership explains that an accidental event led to diesel fuel contaminating the water supply and elevated levels of hydrocarbons remained in the water after the first set of water samples.
Over 350 community members had to be evacuated to Kenora and Winnipeg as a result.
The Kenora Chiefs Advisory and Bimose Tribal Council worked to bring in engineers, water trucks and portable toilets, while leadership with the Kenora District Services Board lined up a partnership with the Waterview Inn to help house members in need of a place to stay.
Kenora – Rainy River MPP, Minister of Northern Development and Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Greg Rickford, says the province has been doing everything it can to support Wabaseemoong members.
“The safety of the community is our top priority,” said Rickford, in an interview with the Q Morning Show.
“We’ve been involved in supporting folks moving out of the community, but almost 800 people remain in the community. We’ve supported the Red Cross coming in, working to maintain a supply of safe drinking water and logistical oversight for vulnerable evacuees,” he adds.
As it stands, there is still no running water in the community as initial remediation efforts have faced some set backs – but work is continuing and staff are hoping to see water service restored by the end of the month.
“We are continuing to do all the work necessary to restore water, but as stated previously, we also have to make sure the problem is fixed properly and the mandatory safety steps are taken,” said Chief Waylon Scott.
“There have been set backs along the way in the process, but we are continuing to work with everyone necessary to work as fast as possible,” he adds.
Chief Scott and the community note that there is no investigation into any type of vandalism at the treatment plant.
This all comes as Wabaseemoong is continuing to upgrade its Water Treatment Plant. In October, work started to upgrade the community’s lift and sewage pumping stations which are expected to be completed by June 2023.
Wabaseemoong, located north of Minaki up Highway 596 and Highway 525, has a listed population of 1,098 community members.