Water from Constance Lake remains unfit for consumption seven weeks after a state of emergency was declared by the community.
“It’s still a status quo,” said Chief Arthur Moore, referring to the thick layer of algae which formed on the community’s namesake lake. The community draws its drinking water from Constance Lake.
“The water is still not safe because of the contamination,” Moore said.
Moore declared the state of emergency July 28, affecting about 900 on-reserve band members.
“It’s a situation where we don’t even want people to boil water from the lake,” Moore said, adding boiling the water could activate the algae and make the situation worse.
The community has made the decision it won’t have its water treatment plant treat water from the lake until it is “scientifically proven” to be safe, Moore said.
“The algae is similar to a lagoon concept,” he said. “It could settle to the bottom of the lake ... and still not be safe.”
When the situation first arose in July, the community’s water treatment plant couldn’t filter the algae.
“The treatment plant is incapable of filtering the algae bloom,” said Aaron Wesley, operations and maintenance technician with Matawa First Nations said at the time. “The filters have plugged up ... and will need to be replaced.”
Drinking water for the community is still being trucked in daily from the power generating station near the community.
“The truck makes five to six trips a day,” Moore said.
The water is being stored in the reservoir of the water treatment plant so residents can safely use water from their taps.
Moore said the transported water has not come in contact with contaminated water at the plant.
Moore said the community is being proactive in looking for a long-term solution to the water issue.
“We’re looking at the well option,” he said.
Exploratory drilling in Constance Lake was performed July 29.
“We need further analysis but we know the well has the capacity to supply a small town,” he said. “We want to make sure it is sufficient and meets the health standards.”
In that regard, the community is waiting on the hydrology reports which will determine the organic elements and minerals in the water
“We need to get Health Canada involved in the assessment of the raw water,” Moore said.
If all goes well with the testing, well-water could be flowing into community homes within two to three months.
Well, our short summer up here in Northern Ontario is beginning to fade. Summer is so precious to all of us in the north and this year we started very late...