'Now we can’t even bathe in it?' State of emergency in Attawapiskat over water quality
A state of emergency has been declared in the northern Ontario community of Attawapiskat after tests showed its drinking water had potentially dangerous levels of byproducts from a disinfection process.
Residents are being advised to limit their exposure to the water -- including showers -- and to not use the water to wash food.
“In this country there are thousands of Indigenous people that don’t have access to clean drinking water. Now we can’t even bathe in it? This is ridiculous,” said Attawapiskat resident Adrian Sutherland on CTV News Channel Tuesday.
NDP MP Charlie Angus, whose riding includes Attawapiskat, said the community is suffering from a failure by the federal government to provide long-term infrastructure.
“What you’re looking at is years of Band-Aid solutions on underfunded infrastructure, inadequate water and sewage, and this is what you see in many northern communities,” he said.
Angus said the process of making the water usable and potable requires applying “massive amounts of chlorine to get the impurities out,” which in turn creates chemicals -- including some, he said, that “have been identified as cancer causing.”
“It’s not that people could even drink the water before. This is to make the water so that they can bathe in it,” Angus said. “Testing shows that we’re double the maximum safe levels.”
He added that the situation is far beyond a boil-water advisory.
“Some of the parents I’ve been speaking to [have] children who are covered in horrific rashes that we’ve seen in the northern reserves from this kind of chemical exposure,” Angus said. “I’ve met a mother whose daughter is suffering kidney failure.”