The Ahousaht First Nation released this photograph through Twitter Monday afternoon after declaring a state of emergency due to soil contaminants affecting the community’s water supply. (Image from @AhousahtAdmin Twitter Account)

Water emergency lifted for Ahousaht

Supply considered safe after week of uncertainty and concern

Ahousaht lifted a boil water advisory on Thursday, declaring its water quality and levels safe after spending the week under a state of emergency.

The announcement ended a harrowing week for the isolated First Nation community, which had declared a state of emergency on Nov. 4 due to soil contamination in its water reservoir.

Some of the First Nation’s elders were immediately evacuated by vessel to the neighbouring community of Tofino, roughly 20 kilometres away.

“They’ve reached out to us and Tofino has responded by making our water accessible to them,” Tofino mayor Josie Osborne told the Westerly News on Nov. 4. “It’s always important to support our neighbours. We’re all in this together. They rely on us and we rely on them. We need to be there in their time of need.”

The water was transported from Tofino to Ahousaht by salmon farmer Cermaq Canada.

“Cermaq has a longstanding relationship with the Ahousaht community and we are happy to help in any way we can. Our thoughts are with the community and, in a small place like this, this is what neighbours do. We know Ahousaht would do the same for us if we were in a similar situation,” said Cermaq’s Sustainable Development Director Linda Sams.

Members of the Tofino Volunteer Fire Department accessed a fire hydrant to fill tanks that were then lifted onto a Cermaq barge by crane, according to Sams who added that the company remained active in the effort throughout the week.

”We are going to continue working closely with members of the Ahousaht Community, the District of Tofino and other local support services to ensure the community has the water required until their system is restored,” she said. “We will be setting up a recycling centre to gather the water jugs after the water supply has been returned. This is in-line with our commitment to protecting the environment and reducing micro plastics in the oceans.”

An Emergency Management B.C. spokesperson said EMBC supported Ahousaht’s evacuated elders through Emergency Social Services, but would not investigate the water reservoir.

“The Ahousaht First Nation has indicated that they are running low on reservoir capacity and have identified the need to relocate elders. Emergency Management BC is supporting that request with short term Emergency Social Services,” said an Emergency Management B.C. Spokesperson. “Drinking water systems and boil water advisories are the responsibility of local governments and water purveyors. Emergency Management BC does not support the operation of these systems…Indigenous Services Canada is engaged and aware of the situation, and they are the appropriate agency to help address any water system infrastructure concerns from the community.”

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