Thursday, September 18, 2014
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Marten Falls First Nation chief says water 'emergency' ignored

Remote Northern Ontario reserve has been without safe drinking water for nearly a decade

By Jody Porter, CBC News

The Chief of Marten Falls First Nation says the government isn't taking a drinking water emergency in his community seriously.

A boil water advisory for Marten Falls was first issued in 2005. The First Nation has been without potable water since then.

Now, Eli Moonias said a broken water filter at the water treatment plant means the tap water is no longer safe, even for bathing.

Moonias said he's worried someone will get seriously ill from the bacteria in the water.

"It's possible, you know, we could have a situation here similar to Walkerton if someone ingests bacteria," the chief said, referencing the southern Ontario town where people died after drinking contaminated tap water.

Moonias said since the filter broke in April he has written letters and had meetings with officials from both the federal and provincial government officials.

But he said his pleas for emergency funding to fix the water treatment plant have been ignored.

"My concern here is government not treating it as an emergency," he said. "Is an emergency confined to flooding, fire, that's it. Not water?"

NDP MP Charlie Angus raised the concern about water in Marten Falls in the House of Commons earlier this week.

"The water in the taps isn't even safe to bathe babies in," Angus said. "The reserve doesn't have the $70,000 to replace the filter, nor the expertise. Bathing children in contaminated water wouldn't be tolerated in any non-native community."

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt did not respond specifically to the situation at Marten Falls.

"I just want to point out ... that we take actions to ensure that First Nations have the same access to clean drinking water as all Canadians," Valcourt said.

He then accused the NDP of voting against the last federal budget that included $300 million for safe water on reserves.

Marten Falls First Nation is a located about 400 kilometres by air, north of Thunder Bay.  

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