Marten Falls First Nation has declared a state of emergency in the community due to a shutdown of the water treatment plant. As of September 15, 2021, the community had been without water for two days, people were left without drinking water, and sewage had started to back up.
The community noted that the crisis that could have been avoided with a firm commitment from the federal government in continuing operations and maintenance that is paid in a timely manner, but the community is left to deal with this emergency now.
Delayed operation and maintenance (O&M) funding and insufficient amounts compound regular challenges to a breaking point. Marten Falls wants to put an end to this type of consistent emergency management and work towards sustainable ways of community management. That is why the community is calling for enhancements to community capacity, including increases in O&M funding and band support funding.
“As we deal with this state of emergency, we continue to worry about two other potential community level disasters,” said Chief Bruce Achneepineskum. “With a lack of housing, we deal with homelessness and overcrowding. We don’t even have residences for teachers coming to our community. This can flare a COVID-19 outbreak at any point and we have been fortunate to avoid that till now.”
“We have also been lobbying for fire suppression equipment for a while and we don’t have anything,” added Chief Achneepineskum. “The worry of a house catching a fire keeps me up at night and we must work with the federal and provincial governments to address this. But for now, I need to get my community to safety and get the water working again. I am calling for an evacuation unless this can be resolved within a day or so.”
Currently all services in Marten Falls are without water. The nursing station, police service, the school, and community buildings have no water. These are critical services at risk of complete shutdown. It is not possible to live in the community in this situation. As the community prepares for a fourth COVID wave, members of the community cannot even undertake basic health measure like hand washing. The Chief and Council of Marten Falls are calling on the government to work with them to help evacuate the community and to bring the water back online immediately. They are also calling on the government of Canada to work with them on the provision of 15-20 houses immediately required in the community as well as fire suppression equipment to avoid future disasters.