‘This is an emergency.’ MLA calls for Behchokǫ̀ water help
As some residents in Edzo remain without clean running water or sewage services, the MLA for the region called on the territorial government to find funding to remedy the problem for good.
In January, some residents in the community reported brown water flowing from their taps and a backup of raw sewage – an issue that has persisted for weeks, APTN reported.
Jane Weyallon Armstrong, the MLA for Monfwi, last month told Cabin Radio the issues stem from the community’s ageing water plant and buried pipe system that must be replaced.
She said she had spoken to Shane Thompson, the territorial minister of municipal and community affairs, about addressing the problem immediately.
On Monday, Weyallon Armstrong again raised the issue with Thompson as MLAs reconvened at the Legislative Assembly. She called on the territory to provide the estimated $10 million required to replace the water pipe, saying funding currently provided to the community is inadequate.
“By not helping the community to resolve this problem, I feel the GNWT is making a decision that will impact essential community services,” she said, noting schools, the seniors’ home, health centre and NWT government services in Behchokǫ̀ rely on the piped water system.
“Water is a human right and it’s important to peoples’ health and wellness,” Weyallon Armstrong said.
“This is an emergency situation that the GNWT has to respond to.”
‘We don’t have any money’
Thompson, repeating a statement he made to CBC last week, said his department has no more funding to commit to the project.
“We don’t have any money,” he said.
Thompson said since 2007, it has been up to NWT communities to determine where to prioritize infrastructure funding.
The department told Cabin Radio in January an assessment of Behchokǫ̀’s underground water infrastructure was completed two years ago, using federal funding. That assessment outlined the need for upgrades.
Between 2007 and 2020, Thompson said, his department gave the Behchokǫ̀ community government more than $15 million for infrastructure upgrades while the federal government provided around $10 million through the gas tax over the same period.
“Communities make decisions. They make priorities. So they have to make decisions on what they think needs to be done for their community and they make choices,” Thompson said.
Weyallon Armstrong, however, said that funding had to be used on daily operations and to maintain other infrastructure. She added the territory has consistently underfunded communities.
In response, Thompson reiterated the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs has no “slush fund” nor other money to commit to the water line replacement in Behchokǫ̀, but had asked the federal government for help.
He said staff from his department had met with the Behchokǫ̀ government to discuss water and sewer issues and some improvements had been made. According to Thompson, four houses now have temporary above-ground service lines, the treatment water reserve is up to 50-percent capacity, and the water treatment plant is able to treat water faster than it is being consumed.
“The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs is doing everything we can do with the community to help,” he said.