Evacuees from Neskantaga First Nation started returning home Monday after recent water testing showed chlorine and microbiological levels were at acceptable levels after a new pump was installed in the local water system. The previous piece of equipment malfunctioned earlier in September, triggering a state of emergency. About 220 residents were in Thunder Bay for more than a week after the pump went down on Sept. 14. Chief Chris Moonias called for the evacuation himself, concerned about symptoms he said were showing up in community members, including skin rashes, stomach problems and headaches.
An abrupt downturn in an already poor water-quality situation in a northwestern Ontario Indigenous community poses more of a safety risk than the federal government is willing to acknowledge, representatives of the First Nation said Wednesday as they called for help covering the cost of evacuating the community. Most of the 250 residents of the Neskantaga First Nation, a member of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, flew out of the community on the weekend after untreated water began flowing from local taps and water pressure tapered off dramatically.
The taps to Winnipeg's drinking water were first turned on in April 1919, but as the city celebrated its engineering feat and raised glasses of that clear liquid, another community's fortunes suddenly turned dark. Construction of a new aqueduct plunged Shoal Lake 40 into a forced isolation that it is only now emerging from, 100 years after Winnipeg's politicians locked their sights on the water that cradles the First Nation at the Manitoba–Ontario border. "The price that our community has paid for one community to benefit from that resource, it's just mind-boggling," said Shoal Lake 40 Chief Erwin Redsky.