Update – Neskantaga Water Emergency: Monday September 16 2019

Neskantaga Council members and community workers in meeting over water emergency - Image courtesy of Chief Moonias
Neskantaga Council members and community workers in meeting over water emergency - Image courtesy of Chief Moonias

NESKANTAGA – Eleven flights left Neskantaga First Nation on Sunday. The community has started a self-evacuation following the burn-out of the electric motors that power the First Nation’s water pumps. The school has been closed as there is no water available for the building.

Chief Moonias shares, “We were able to get 99 people out last night but due to weather moving in at the destination we had to stop. We still have approximately 81 people that were identified as stage 1 most vulnerable list that we need to move today. Stage 2 evacuation will commence shortly after.”

On Sunday night, as community officials continued working, Chief Moonias shared, “Earlier this evening I was so exhausted so I laid down to have a quick shut-eye but ended up falling asleep for a couple of hours, now I can’t sleep. I worry and feel sorry for the Neskantaga people that have to endure the water crisis.”

“Tomorrow I go back to the office and try to address the ongoing water crisis issue we have. I had planned to be out on the land for moose hunting for the weekend but the issue we are facing now has become my priority. Our statement is out, our cry for help is out there. We are not crying wolf. This is as real as it gets. I’ll continue fighting for you. I will not give up!”

Neskantaga has been under a boil-water advisory since 1995 when its then-newly installed 1993 water treatment plant broke down.

Martine Stevens, a spokesperson for Indigenous Services Canada tells NetNewsLedger, “Indigenous Services Canada is working in partnership with the Neskantaga First Nation and Matawa Tribal Council to bring clean safe water to the community.

“Officials are in daily contact with the Chief and the community. Departmental officials were made aware of the latest problems with the water system late Friday and are working with the community to ensure that repairs begin on Monday to resolve the situation and restore water pressure. The Tribal Council has estimated that the repairs will be completed by Wednesday. Ensuring that the water system is repaired is a priority for the Department. Potable water is available, and the Department has committed this morning to increase the amount of bottled water available to the community.

“Departmental officials, including community nursing professionals, continue to monitor and respond to the situation.

“The Nursing Station remains open for community members and medical evacuation continues to be available to patients, should it be needed.

“Chief Moonias has declared a self-evacuation of Neskantaga community members. The Department is offering assistance to individuals remaining in the community‎ and will work with partners to provide assistance as required to those transported to Thunder Bay.

“The Department has been working closely with the community on an upgrade to the water treatment plant to lift the long-term drinking water advisory. In July 2017, approximately $8.8 million in funding was approved to upgrade Neskantaga First Nation’s water treatment system, including an addition to the existing water plant.

“Officials will continue to work with the community to ensure the completion of the water treatment plant that will provide safe, clean, reliable drinking water for years to come.”

Neskantaga First Nation is located 450 kilometers north of Thunder Bay and has an on-reserve population of over 300 people.