Ahousaht kept its good humour in place during a six-day interruption to its water supply

Ahousaht kept its good humour in place during a six-day interruption to its water supply

Water restored in Ahousaht

Hard work from residents, support from neighbours carries remote Vancouver Island community through six days without a potable water supply

  • Dec. 21, 2016 11:00 a.m.

A ruptured pipe that cut Ahousaht off from its water supply on Friday has been fixed, according to Emergency Management B.C.

The remote First Nation spent nearly six full days without clean water after the pipe broke at the base of the community’s water treatment plant. Ahousaht staff and volunteers worked tirelessly to fix the break, which occurred below sea level adding complications to the efforts.

The pipe was fixed and potable running water was restored around 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

“We are happy to report that the waterline is now repaired,” wrote Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness Naomi Yamamoto in an email to the Westerly News. Jubilant posts on Ahousaht’s community Facebook page corroborated the good news.

“I am so happy for the volunteers who worked endlessly to get our water situation fixed,” Marion Campbell posted on the Ahousaht Nation public Facebook group page. “There are so many people to thank, donations of water (which will still be needed until we get a clearance to use the water for consumption), volunteers delivering water to Tofino and getting it sent to Ahousaht and all those who delivered to homes.

“Thanks for taking care of the elders, those with medical needs and pregnant women. I am so proud to be from such a strong community! I am proud of all our relatives and friends who helped us with the water donations. I love home! Happy Holidays everyone!”

Water donations are still needed as the Nation remains on a boil water advisory. And there certainly hasn’t been a lack of helping hands being offered so far. Tofino, Ucluelet and the Ucluelet First Nation were among those rallying to help their Ahousaht neighbours.

Ucluelet First Nation president Les Doiron said he received a crisis call from Ahousaht’s Patti Charleson shortly after the break occurred and immediately got his team together to assist.

“We have a stockpile of water for our people, so we swung into action and immediately loaded the trucks up and delivered them to the dock and water taxis in Tofino,” Doiron told the Westerly adding the Nation delivered roughly 70, 18-litre, jugs.

Doiron said he then called his friend Randy Johnson of Buy-Low Foods in Port Alberni who immediately offered additional support.

“I explained the situation to him and he donated 30 [18-litre] bottles for no charge,” Doiron said of Johnson. “So, we picked those up and brought those out.”

Doiron said Buy-Low also donated 1,000 individual bottles of water, which the Ucluelet First Nation team picked up in Port Alberni and delivered to Tofino’s dock to be taken to Ahousaht.

Doiron said helping out a neighbour is an automatic response on the West Coast.

“It’s an automatic reaction,” Ucluelet mayor Dianne St. Jacques told the Westerly News. “That’s what we do. We’re neighbours out here and we support each other. Our location puts us in a situation where we’re the support group for each other.”

Tofino mayor Josie Osborne said she and her district staff are also in close communication with Ahousaht “to offer anything we can.”

“It’s a critical need that suddenly arises. You do everything you can to help people have one of the most basic necessities of life: potable water…That’s part of the importance of being a good neighbour. If we had an emergency we would rely on our neighbours for help.”

Tofino set up a warming centre at its community hall over the weekend to welcome Ahousaht elders and other community members who had been evacuated but that centre was not activated as the Tin Wis Resort stepped in to assist.

Osborne said the Ahousaht crisis has shed light on the need for stronger emergency coordination across the Coast and said the details about how emergency response is supposed to happen are currently unclear.

“I know that a task number has been issued by EMBC and all of that, but I don’t know enough about the relationship between the different levels of government and, frankly, it’s something that I should know better and that we should all know better,” she said.

Meanwhile, the area’s member of B.C.’s Legislative Assembly is flabbergasted that the province didn’t step in to help out yet.

Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser said he has been trying to convince B.C.’s Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness Naomi Yamamoto to shed some support onto the remote First Nation since Monday.  He said the ministry did not get back to him until Tuesday afternoon and advised him the issue was a federal one under the umbrella of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, which was an answer he did not find adequate.

“It’s not like INAC has a team to respond to anything. INAC is almost a concept…It’s an amorphous ministry in Ottawa. They don’t have boots on the ground,” he said.“It may well be on reserve, which may well be a federal authority, but the province has to deal with this as an emergency. They should not be trying to figure out whose jurisdiction this is. They should just help and, once the dust is settled, they can figure out who’s going to pay the bill. That’s just being good government and taking care of people in the province whether they’re on reserve or not.”

He added Ahousaht deserves better than to see their current crisis slip through jurisdictional cracks and noted the community played a heroic role during the rescue efforts of the Leviathan II tragedy in October 2015.

“I think back to how Ahousaht responded to an emergency when the Leviathan II sank. I never ever heard anything from Ahousaht saying well that’s a federal responsibility, or that’s a whatever, they just did it. They came to the assistance of those that needed it,” he said.

In an emailed response to the Westerly News, Minister Yamamoto said the province is playing a supporting role in the federal government’s efforts.

“The lead agencies for this are the federal government through Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and the First Nations Health Authority,” she wrote.

“The Province continues to offer support to the Ahousaht First Nation in a coordinating role. It’s important to note that the community has enough water on site for one year and this was not declared as an emergency.”

She said EMBC supported Ahousaht’s members by helping to set up a warming centre in Tofino to welcome evacuees, as well as providing executive level coordination and ongoing monitoring of the situation.

“EMBC senior staff have been in contact with the community to ensure there are no unmet needs,” she wrote.

Anyone willing to donate should contact Ahousaht’s Patti Charleson at 250-670-9531 or aboo_19@msn.com.

— Andrew Bailey Westerly News

Just Posted

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Victoria police continue to look for missing man Tyrone Goertzen and are once again asking for the public’s assistance in locating him. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police put out another call for help finding missing man

Tyrone Goertzen, 33, was first reported missing June 4

Rachel Rivera (left) and Claire Ouchi are a dynamic art duo known as the WKNDRS. The two painted the new road mural at Uptown. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Artistic mural at Uptown brings creativity, fun to summer shoppers in Saanich

Road installation the largest of its kind in Greater Victoria

Kathy and Doug LaFortune stand next to the new welcome pole now gracing the front entrance of KELSET Elementary School in North Saanich. LaFortune completed the piece after suffering a stroke with the help of his wife and son Bear. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
KELSET school in North Saanich unveils welcome pole on National Indigenous Peoples Day

Carver Doug LaFortune completed pole with the help of his son, wife after suffering a stroke

Colwood council is looking at potential summer weekend closures to traffic of a section of Ocean Boulevard at Esquimalt Lagoon, to allow for more of a park-like setting during summer events such as the popular Eats & Beats event, shown here in 2018. (Black Press Media file photo)
Mayor lobbying for summer weekend closures of beachfront Colwood roadway

Rob Martin to bring motion forward to June 28 council meeting

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

A blood drive in support of 1-year-old Rielynn Gormley of Agassiz is scheduled for Monday, June 28 at Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack. Rielynn lives with type 3 von Willebrand disease, which makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. (Screenshot/Canadian Blood Services)
Upcoming blood drive in honour of Fraser Valley toddler with rare blood condition

The Gormley family has organized a blood drive in Chilliwack on June 28

Most Read