The Manitoba government is partnering with three northern Indigenous communities to improve access to timely testing of water quality samples by establishing a pilot bacteriological water testing site in Thompson Indigenous, Reconciliation and Northern Relations Minister Alan Lagimodiere and Environment, Climate and Parks Minister Jeff Wharton announced.

“The safety of Manitobans’ drinking water is paramount, and we are working across government to find creative ways to address the unique challenges facing northern and remote communities in the provision of safe drinking water,” said Lagimodiere. “I am very pleased that this project will remove barriers for these communities, and will contribute to our government’s vision of health and well-being of all Manitobans.”

The province has invested $30,000 in supplying a TECTA machine to the Thompson testing facility. The self-contained unit is used to analyze water samples for bacteria. Water samples are collected and then delivered to the testing facility, where the machine analyzes the samples automatically and reports results directly to the Office of Drinking Water. This minimizes the chance of error based on previous strict time lines and temperature limitations specified for bacteriological analysis when transporting test samples. If bacteria is found in the water sample, an early warning notice is sent out, allowing for a faster response to adverse water quality tests.

“There are significant challenges for some remote northern communities to get water quality samples from the community to an accredited laboratory in Winnipeg,” said Wharton. “This testing site will help reduce delays and uncertainties associated with shipping water samples from the north, and helps communities improve compliance with water quality testing requirements and confirm the ongoing safety of their water supplies.”

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The northern communities of Pikwitonei, Thicket Portage and Nelson House are currently involved in the project and may be expanded to include additional remote communities, the ministers noted.

“I am on board with this new testing arrangement in Thompson,” Mayor Brenda Flett, Community of Pikwitonei. “It was always an issue getting water samples to Winnipeg. Samples would get lost or would be no good when they arrived. Having the testing location closer will allow us to get results faster with easier delivery.”

The testing facility is a cross-departmental collaboration between Manitoba Environment, Climate and Parks and Manitoba Indigenous, Reconciliation and Northern Relations working in partnership with northern communities to increase bacteria sampling compliance requirements and reduce boil water advisories.

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