Stoney Health Services is making last calls for homes in Stoney Nakoda First Nation to have their water sampled before their latest testing program wraps Feb. 28.
A team of environmental health officers with the organization have been taking samples since August 2021 from all homes across the reserve.
“The Stoney Nakoda Nation, like many Nations across this country, have experienced water issues for generations that impact the entire community,” said Chief Clifford Poucette of Wesley First Nation. “Whether it’s access to clean drinking water or disposing of wastewater, we need to restore, protect and preserve our water, as water is sacred."
The project, funded by Environment Canada, tests drinking water from kitchen taps. Technicians are also locating, measuring and checking cisterns, wells and septic fields.
Several samples are taken from a water source if needed. Well water is subject to 10 samples to test for calcium, iron, cholera and other potentially harmful bacteria.
Testing began in Chiniki First Nation, south of the Trans Canada Highway and has been moving its way northward through all of Stoney Nakoda First Nation through the fall and early winter months.
Stoney Health Services recommends testing be done every five years to ensure drinking water is safe and infrastructure works as needed.
A summary report of the project will be shared with the community in spring and will help guide future maintenance and repair decisions.
Water quality in Canada ranks among the best in the world — second only to Sweden in the 2010 Environmental Performance Index. The United Nations stipulates the need for safe drinking water as a basic human right.
Despite this, First Nations communities face a 26 times higher than national average of carrying water-borne diseases, according to a 2016 study by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
The same report found people living on reserves are 90 times more likely to have no access to running water when compared to non-Indigenous people.
Water treatment solutions
In November 2021, Steel River Group Ltd., an Indigenous-owned diversified management, development and construction consortium announced that its new entity, Water Care Company, had received funding from the Alberta Innovates Water Innovation Program for its first water treatment project in Stoney Nakoda First Nation.
Steel River has been working with Stoney Tribal Administration for the past two years to find potential solutions for the Morley Wastewater Treatment Plant, a facility that is often forced to turn away truckloads of wastewater due to capacity challenges.
Alberta Innovates committed $328,029 to Water Care for the purpose of developing the pre-commercial prototype of its Clarification Technology at the Morley plant to address capacity issues.
At the time of the announcement, Stoney Tribal Administration CEO Ryan Robb said they are thrilled the challenge is being addressed.
"This technology should extend and expand the life cycle and the capacity of our wastewater system, ensuring the entire community has access to clean water in Stoney Nakoda First Nation," he said.
The pilot project, which runs until May 2022, aims to validate and demonstrate the performance of the technology in a real-life environment while improving Morley's current capacity issues.
"As a First Nation, being given this opportunity to steward this new technology, understand how it works, and share the knowledge of its effectiveness with other Indigenous peoples is very powerful," said Poucette.