Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation has access to clean water after 20 years

By cmwitta

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The Lhoosk’uz Dené Nation will finally have access to clean water after the community has lived without any for 20 years.

The village of about 50 people, located near the west of Quesnel, collaborated with the UBC engineering student team, led by Professor Majid Mohseni, to supply clean drinking water to the first nation’s residents.

“The previous water was a well with water contaminated minerals,” Mohseni says. “So it gave it very poor taste, aesthetically was not very pleasing as well, and also the location of the well was close to the ancient burial ground.”

The location of the First Nations community is also only accessible by a single logging road, which made it harder to access in the winter.

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The treatment from Mosheni’s team entailed ultraviolet light and chlorine disinfection, to ensure clean drinking water that is free of harmful microbes.

Indigenous Services Minister, Marc Miller says this project is a significant achievement that will provide residents with safe, clean water for many years to come.

The UBC engineering team has also worked with the Tl’azt’en Nation, Indigenous Services Canada, First Nations Health Authority, to develop a treatment system to combat organic contaminants in the community’s water supply.

Mohseni says the issue was a huge source of stress for the Nation.

“Imagine that you live in a place that you don’t know whether your next bottle of water is going to arrive. And this is a community connected by logging growth, so during the winter months or during the snow melt, or when there are floods or fires, there is no guarantee that the next shipment could come.”

Up until now, water delivered to the Nation was only for cooking and drinking.

“Given the very poor quality of the water, they did not feel comfortable taking a bath or a shower with that water because it is now very bad. Not being worried about drinking poor quality water was a great relief for them.”

Mohseni says collaboration was key in building a custom treatment centre to meet the community’s needs.

“The task was really to listen to the community and see what their concerns were and what their optimum solution would look like. Working closely with the communities themselves, is really our path to reconciliation.”

The community has monitored the water supply since the treatment system began operating in May.

In a statement released by UBC, Band Manager Brenda Thomas says they remember the day elders took their first drink of water from the tap.

“As the Elders took their first sips, I had to hold back tears as the reality hit me. We’d done it, after years of waiting, after hundreds of conference calls and numerous forest fires and despite being in the middle of a pandemic. We were resilient and persevered.”

With files from Bailey Nicholson and the University of British Columbia

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