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From bottled water to tap: Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation finds solution to water troubles

Community awaits new water treatment system
Drinking water has been purchased and trucked from Quesnel into the Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation for the past 20 years. (Lhoosk’uz Dene Nation photo)

After two decades of relying on bottled water, members of a B.C. First Nation west of Quesnel will soon be able to drink water directly from the taps in their homes.

An approximate $600,000 packaged water treatment system is anticipated to be installed at the Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation this fall.

“This has been an important project that chief and council have been pushing for,” said band manager Brenda Thomas. “We’re all excited. For the past 20 years, we’ve never had potable water.”

READ MORE: B.C.’s rural water systems need work to be safe, auditor says

Plans to treat the water for the 40 to 55 members living on-reserve has been eyed since the late 2000s.

The community constructed two wells in 2008, after originally sourcing their water from a single, large-diameter shallow-dug well adjacent to Kluskus Creek in the years prior. The water source was susceptible to turbidity and bacterial contamination.

Due to their close proximity, however, to the community septic field and traditional burial grounds, members did not trust the new wells, which also had elevated levels of iron, as a source of drinking water. A water treatment plant at the time was identified as being too expensive and difficult to maintain and operate in the long-term.

Bottled water from Quesnel was brought in for all community members for drinking and food preparation.

It was not until nearly a decade later in 2017 that two new water supply wells located away from the community septic field and traditional burial grounds were drilled to provide safe and reliable drinking water.

Although the new wells had better quality water than the wells drilled in 2008, elevated levels of iron were still a problem. The water also exceeded acceptable drinking water guidelines for manganese after a new guideline value was established by Health Canada in May 2019.

READ MORE: Infants, young children shouldn’t drink Williams Lake tap water due to levels of manganese, city says

The new packaged water treatment system will be trucked into the community this fall, and provided by AWC Process Solutions in Langley.

The plan is to install the treatment system on a concrete slab located at the south side of Kluskus Creek, where it will be housed in a C-can container.

Tony Baptiste and Marcel Korkowski will the community’s water operators who will be provided with any necessary training on the water system before it goes online and begins disinfecting the water through UV light and chlorination, Thomas said.

Once it is up and running the wells from 2008 will be decommissioned.

Chief Liliane Squinas said the new water system will be the end of “a long journey” towards clean drinking water. Once the project is complete the community is hoping to have a community barbecue if COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings are lifted by then.

“The community members are excited. It’s been a long time coming and they’re just patiently waiting for the time that they can turn on the tap and drink out of it.”

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