Residents of the Clcahl (Hullcar) Valley have been on a drinking water advisory for five years.
This is a prime example that supports the findings in the recently released report by the Auditor General, which concluded that the B.C. Ministry of Health and the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) are not sufficiently protecting drinking water for all British Columbians.
Due to the tireless work of the Splatsin and the Save Hullcar Aquifer Team, who have been working together since February 2016, there has been an independent review, recommendations made and government commitments to improve the water source for the Hullcar Valley.
Unfortunately this has been followed by stalled commitments and too many bureaucratic meetings.
Enough. It is time for action.
The Hullcar Aquifer is a vital drinking water source for residents of the valley.
Yet, excessive levels of nitrates continue to be leached into groundwater through a liquid effluent produced by an industrial dairy farm.
The liquid effluent is spread on fields that lay above the aquifer that has been classified for decades by the provincial government as “vulnerable.”
Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines maximum allowable content of 10 parts per million (ppm). The latest tests at the Steele Springs Waterworks District’s (SSWD) former source show a consistent level of 8/ppm.
Even at the current level, the nitrates remain a threat to human health, particularly babies, those with compromised immune systems, and the elderly.
Many Hullcar residents choose to drink bottled water, have costly water purification systems, or when they can afford neither, of necessity simply drink the water and take their chances.
It is time for change.
The community wants water security on a long-term basis, not just the treatment systems being installed now, and they deserve nothing less.
Proven solutions used in Europe and proven technologies that have found success world-wide have been proposed to the government on many occasions, but nothing has been implemented.
The only acceptable solution for now and into the future is to stop the contamination and let Mother Nature heal her wounds.
It is time for the government to implement strong laws and enforcement to ensure healthy water for people and nature.
An essential element in safeguarding our water resources is listening to and working with local communities. Building collaborative, government-to-government relationships with First Nations is a key component.
Initial steps have been taken by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the B.C. Ministry of the Environment and Splatsin that recognizes the need for a co-management governance process for Hullcar.
This must be locally driven and grounded in Secwepemc law, culture and values.
It is time for local communities and First Nations to have an equal role in managing their local waters.
We need to build on the good faith of the MoU and develop a co-governance system that fosters respect, collaboration and community.
First Nations around the world have hundreds of thousands of years of knowledge they have passed on from generation to generation.
Working together to solve our mutual problems is the only solution, and the only way true reconciliation will happen, neighbour to neighbour, friend to friend.
One of the key Secwepemc values that we need to emphasize is “Knucwentwecw” helping each other, it is this value that our ancestors welcomed and helped the settlers who came into our country.
This is the value that will bring us collectively to a place where clean drinking water will be available to all.
We are the ones we have been waiting for.
It is just time.
Kukpi7 Christian, Chief of the Splatsin;
Al Price, founder of Save Hullcar Aquifer Team (SHAT);
Danielle Paydli, B.C. organizer of the Canadian Freshwater Alliance