About 20 Champagne residents have been ordered not to drink their water by the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation following tests that reveal uranium contamination.
“We’ve had high levels of radiation detected in seven out of the 12 wells in the community of Champagne,” Lawrence Joe, the First Nation’s director of lands and resources said on Friday.
“We have issued a stop-drinking order that was effective on Tuesday at 4 o’clock,” he said.
The water order means “no drinking, no cooking, don’t brush your teeth, no personal use” with the water, Joe said.
The First Nation is working with the Health and Social Services and Indian and Northern Affairs to determine what steps to take following the tests, he said.
A meeting to discuss the situation is scheduled for Monday evening in Champagne.
More test results are being analyzed today.
Residents in the tiny First Nation community are worried about recent illnesses and their links with the new discovery in the water, said Kluane MLA Gary McRobb on Friday.
“People have expressed concerns to me recently and speculated as to the causes of recent maladies amongst community members,” said McRobb.
“There’s been some cancers and other ailments, and it has shocked a lot of people how widespread it is. They’re quite upset about it.”
The find raises some obvious questions about the history and comprehensiveness of the water testing in Champagne, said McRobb.
“Was it possible for this to be detected earlier?” he asked.
After reviewing the water regulations yesterday, McRobb believes Champagne’s water is tested by the First Nation and the not the Yukon government, putting it in the scope of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, he said.
Haines Junction residents, which lies just west of Champagne, are taking a wait-and-see stance and aren’t too upset, added McRobb.
“People expect their water to be safe, especially in this part of the world,” he said.
“With all the government regulations, you’d figure this would be the first thing the government would ensure the safety of.
“I’m shocked at this, in this day and age. It’s 2006; that well has been there for years, presumably, and the feeling is that this contamination isn’t something that just happened.”
Yukon and federal government officials could not be reached for comment before press time.