Category Archives: Access to Water

Boil water advisory issued for West Hawk Lake

When Paul Reichert arrived at his home in West Hawk Lake Saturday night, he was surprised to find a note stuck to his door with duct tape warning him not to drink his water without boiling it first.

“It laid out how long to boil the water and for children not to drink it and to be very careful when you have a shower,” Reichert said, adding he has been living in the area for the past 66 years and can’t remember the last time such an advisory was issued.

Samples taken from the West Hawk Lake regional water supply Thursday tested positive for Total Coliform bacteria, prompting the Manitoba government to issue a precautionary boil water advisory for the eastern Manitoba community Saturday.

Total Coliform represents a group of bacteria that includes Escherichia coli (E .coli) and other forms of naturally occurring Coliform bacteria that are found in soil. Read more


Great Lakes states approve U.S. city’s plan to draw water from Lake Michigan

A suburban Milwaukee city won a hard-fought battle Tuesday to draw its drinking water from Lake Michigan in the first
test of a compact designed to safeguard the Great Lakes region’s abundant but vulnerable fresh water supply.

A panel representing governors of the eight states adjoining the lakes unanimously approved a proposal from Waukesha, Wis., which is under a court order to find a solution to radium contamination of its groundwater wells. The city says the project will cost $265 million Cdn for engineering studies, pipelines and other infrastructure.

Waukesha is only 27 kilometres from the lake but just outside the Great Lakes watershed. That required the city of about 72,000 to get special permission under the compact, which prohibits most diversions of water across the watershed boundary.

The 2008 pact established a potential exception for communities within counties that straddle the line. Waukesha is the first to request water under that provision.

“There are a lot of emotions and politics surrounding this issue, but voting yes — in co-operation with our Great Lakes
neighbours — is the best way to conserve one of our greatest natural resources,” Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said.

Fear that Waukesha would set a precedent for a host of supplicants was one of the biggest obstacles in the city’s quest to tap Lake Michigan, which began several years before the compact was signed. Read more


Lack of access to sewage treatment, basic sanitation plague Shoal Lake 40: report

SHOAL LAKE, Ont. — Kavin Redsky is pushing a front-loader trying to keep garbage off the road.

Down the street, untreated raw sewage is seeping into the ground.

“This is our main road,” Redsky says. ”It’s pretty nasty eh?”

Sewage leakage on Shoal Lake 40 and the absence of clean drinking water are two of several issues documented in a 92-page report Human Rights Watch is set to release Tuesday in Toronto.

The New York-based human rights watchdog’s report titled, “Make It Safe: Canada’s Obligation to End the First Nations Water Crisis,” has found tainted water and broken septic systems are “jeopardizing” health for First Nations people living on five reserves in Ontario. Read more. 

Grassy Narrows’ fight for clean water is a struggle for environmental justice

Biologist Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published in 1962. The book — about widespread agricultural pesticide use and how toxic chemicals like DDT were threatening insects, birds and other wildlife — garnered widespread acclaim and is heralded as a catalyst for the modern environmental movement.

That same year, a pulp and paper mill in Dryden, Ontario, began dumping untreated mercury waste into the Wabigoon River — more than 9,000 kilograms up to 1970. The mill was upstream from several First Nations communities, including Grassy Narrows, home to the Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek people. Mercury contamination has triggered an ecological crisis that has devastated the local environment and community members’ health to this day.

The Wabigoon River has been sacred to the people of Grassy Narrows for generations. Along with the chain of lakes through which it runs, the river provided fish, drinking water and nearly full employment in guiding and commercial fishing. But shortly after the mill started dumping, mercury began appearing at alarming concentrations far downstream and throughout the entire food chain — in the sediment and surface water of lakes and rivers, where bacteria converted it to toxic methylmercury, which accumulated in the tissues of fish, aquatic invertebrates and people. Read more.