October 6, 2009
School water issue heating up
Chief says solution is on the way, courtesy of INAC
Posted By W. Brice McVicar, The Belleville Intelligencer
TYENDINAGA TERRITORY— The issue of clean water for students at a public school here may reach a boiling point if the matter is not soon addressed, warn members of the community.
Students at Quinte Mohawk School have not been able to drink water from the school’s plumbing system since February 2008 due to elevated levels of contaminants in the water.
However, Chief Don R. Maracle said this could all change in the coming months following a letter received from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada late last week.
The letter, dated Oct.1, indicates INAC is “committed to overseeing finalizing the design for the secondary/treatment (chlorination system) recommended by Health Canada” and will support the additional costs to install the unit.
Quinte Mohawk School is a federal school and, as such, falls into the jurisdiction of INAC.
A press release issued by the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte states their role is to assist with maintenance of the building while INAC is “responsible to ensure the water system conforms to the legislation”.
The letter from INAC, Chief Maracle said, should indicate to parents that their children will soon have clean water at their school.
“The water has not been operational since February 2008 and the drinking fountains have had plastic covers over them since then,” Maracle said.
“We installed a new water filtration system in there between April and June of this year and there’s some post-testing that has to be but during the summer months they detected slight elevations in the raw water system.
“Because of the test results Health Canada recommended an additional chlorination system be added and the engineers have completed that design and Indian Affairs has agreed to pay for it.”
Maracle said the new system will be “ordered right away” and he hopes it will be operational by November.
The announcement comes on the heels of a public meeting held last Thursday night by Mohawk protester Shawn Brant. The meeting, Brant said, was organized to inform parents and community members about the water issues and allow them to discuss their frustrations.
Brant said the only time the band council seems to become concerned about the water quality at the school is when tensions rise regarding the new $1.9 million police building which was supposed to arrive on York Road one year ago.
The modular building, however, has remained in limbo as protesters have taken over the proposed site and refuse to leave.
“Last year we were very specific. We said we want council to respect the values and priorities of people in this community and those values include the protection of our children in the school and the drinking water. We blocked the police station and said we wouldn’t discuss the police building at all until the water at the school was fixed,” Brant said.
Earlier this year, he added, media reports that the water issue had been solved relieved tension but when it was learned the water at the school remained contaminated the situation became, once again, aggravated.
The children at Quinte Mohawk School, Brant said, deserve clean water.
“I don’t know of any other school that would tolerate such an indignity for their community or their children,” he said. “I do have children there and it’s something that’s unimaginable to me.”
The chief’s hope to have the new chlorination system operational by next month means little to Mario Baptiste, a protester who said the new police building won’t be arriving on the Tyendinaga Territory any time soon.
“The police station’s not even up for debate until, at the very least, there’s clean drinking water for our kids. We’re not going to be blackmailed,” he said.
“This isn’t just a month or two issue.... They’ve knowingly, willingly endangered the lives of every children in that school. How do you deal with people like that?”
Baptiste said the protesters who have remained at the site of the proposed new police station since October 2008 will stay there as long as they have to. One step in getting them to leave, he said, would be to provide safe water for the school children.