The Okanagan Indian Band has started a feasibility study to proactively the community’s water systems. The study is expected to be finished by April 2021. (File photo)

The Okanagan Indian Band has started a feasibility study to proactively the community’s water systems. The study is expected to be finished by April 2021. (File photo)

Drinking water improvements in progress for Okanagan Indian Band residents

A feasibility study is in the works for improving the Irish Creek/Head of Lake water source

Work is being done to improve drinking water quality for the Okanagan Indian Band community.

After receiving funding, the band has started on a feasibility study to improve the Irish Creek/Head of the Lake water system, which is currently under a “do not consume” order for infants.

“OKIB has identified this project as a top priority for the community,” the band stated in a press release Wednesday, Nov. 18. “Upon completion of the feasibility study, OKIB will pursue funding to undertake the design of the upgrades.”

The Irish Lake/Head of the Lake water system was identified as the highest priority in the OKIB’s water master plan and is currently under a “do not consume” order from the First Nation Health Authority when it comes to mixing baby formula. This is due to levels of manganese in the water that exceed Health Canada’s guidelines.

In July the OKIB issued a reminder of the advisory, explaining that infants are most vulnerable to high manganese levels in the water.

The feasibility study is expected to conclude in April 2021, and its findings and recommendations will be shared with the community around that time, the OKIB said.

READ MORE: Agreement reached for Vernon beach maintenance

A technical team will assess the viability of various source, treatment, storage and distribution options.

“We will also be using information from the temporary treatment system that has been installed to better understand treatment solutions,” the band said.

Depending on the results of the study, the OKIB says the project could involve drilling one or two new wells.

Brad Janvier, OKIB director of public works and housing, is leading the project, with hydrogeology work by Kala Geosciences and support from the First Nations Health Authority and Indigenous Services Canada.

In August 2019 the OKIB sued the federal government over its failure to provide safe drinking water. Its water systems, which were constructed in the 1970s according to standards outlined by Indian Affairs Canada, rely on groundwater wells that supply untreated water to hundreds of residents.

“We have lost faith in a system that I would characterize as negligent,” Chief Byron Louis said at the time. “We are stuck in limbo between federal policy that under-funds our system and provincial infrastructure resources we cannot access.”

READ MORE: Repairs require shutdown of Vernon’s water disinfection

Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
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