Malfunctioning treatment plant leaves York Landing short of potable water

York Factory First Nation (YFFN) has declared a state of emergency and asked the federal government for assistance due to chronic water shortages resulting from its water treatment plane malfunctioning.

YFFN sent a letter to the Indigenous Services Canada regional director for Manitoba on April 19 to inform the department that an emergency had been declared and to request that it send a team of qualified workers to diagnose, repair and restore the planet to full operation. The First Nation also wants resources to help it provide its members with water for drinking, food preparation and sanitation in every household and to ensure that the health centre, school, daycare and administrative offices continue to operate, and that there is an emergency fire response in place.

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“We are now in our 5th week of chronic water shortages, which have forced our school, daycare, and restaurant to close, and left us without proper fire and emergency services,” said the letter. “Families are short on drinking water, food preparation and laundry. We are seriously concerned for the wellbeing of our members and alarmed that our newly upgraded water treatment plant is failing after such a short period in operation.”

The plant, which was upgraded a year ago, has only been producing small amounts of water, resulting in water being shut off overnight and during the daytime. 

In an update on Facebook April 8, YFFN chief and council said the membrane system and raw water wells had been cleaned in an attempt to resolve the situation and that Delco, the company that installed the new system, was due to arrive within 24 hours to diagnose or repair the issue. The water produced by the plant is safe to drink, they said at that time.

Churchill-Keewatinook Aski NDP MP Niki Ashton asked Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller about the issue in the House of Commons April 22.

“The band is now paying out of pocket for proper testing and bottled water,” said Ashton. “The Liberals will say they’re monitoring the situation. Bandaids won’t cut it. This government’s lack of sustained funding is the problem. What is this federal government going to do right now to fix the water treatment plant in York Landing?”

Miller said the fall economic statement and the budget released earlier this week showed that the federal government was providing sustained funding for water in Indigenous communities across the country

“No nation should go without secure and safe access to clean water and we will continue working on it,” said Miller, referencing the Liberals’ work since they first formed government in 2015 to reduce the number of long-term water advisories on First Nations.”When we took power there were 105 long-term water advisories in effect. We’ve lifted 106. That work will continue and we will continue to sustain those critical assets.”

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