More than 300 residents of Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation are under yet another boil-water advisery.
Since 2003, annual tests have found E. coli and total coliform infecting 10 wells that service the First Nation’s main village.
Although Little Salmon staff repeatedly attempted to clean and disinfect the contaminated wells, the situation remains dire.
“The wells have been a problem for quite some time,” said independent consultant Jillian Chown.
Well pits in Little Salmon are highly susceptible to surface water runoff, are not sealed properly and are often too close to nearby septic systems, said the First Nation in a press release.
Chown and Vista Tek Ltd. completed a Little Salmon feasibility study for water supply upgrades in 2004.
“The engineers involved sampled all the wells and did massive amounts of research and massive amounts of community consultation,” said Chown.
The study concluded a piped-water system is the best option for the community.
“It is the safest and the cheapest option and that’s what the First Nation wants,” she said.
Little Salmon applied to Indian and Northern Affairs’ First Nation Water Management Strategy and the Yukon’s Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund, but neither program approved its application.
The Yukon government said the First Nation’s application lacked necessary information.
And Little Salmon doesn’t qualify for Indian Affairs funding because the federal department won’t support a piped-water system, said Chown.
“We were supposed to begin construction this summer,” she said.
“And the delays we have come across are just maddening.”
The First Nation cannot even reapply for territorial funding until this coming November.
Chown and the First Nation are meeting with Indian Affairs representatives Thursday to examine the wells in question.
“I’ve heard they will support fixing all the wells and putting in individual treatment, but it’s ridiculous because of the operation and maintenance costs,” said Chown.
“It’s not as safe and will cost more than if (Indian Affairs) put in a piped system.”
The First Nation’s chief and council have made the decision that its members will stay on the boil-water advisery until it gets a piped-water system.
When asked how long this might take, Chown said, “it could be years.”