An Indigenous community in Saskatchewan has declared a state of emergency after an oil spill that gushed into into a major river forced it to shut off its water supply.
The spill, which flooded into the North Saskatchewan River, was reported by Husky Energy last week.
Carl Austin Bear, chief of the Muskoday First Nation, announced on Wednesday: "Even though we're able to manage the crisis at the moment, we don't know how long this is going to persist." The emergency declaration is a measure to prepare the community for the impending crisis, according to Bear.
The community of 800, 15 kilometers south of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, has been relying on its private contractors delivering water tankers, including Husky Energy, as well as support from other First Nations, for five days now.
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Prince Albert employees are in the midst of constructing a new, temporary pipeline that will link the community to an alternate water supply until the spill is cleaned, and the water is deemed safe to use again.
Bear says the community had struck a deal with the province on Tuesday where the government would help provide water, but the deal fell through on Wednesday.
"I don't think we can put much reliance on the province," Bear said.
The community usually relies on water supplied by Prince Albert's treatment plant.
Prince Albert mayor Greg Dionne stated they'll have to wait until the city has their water source corrected before the water supply is resumed to the Muskoday First Nation.
On Wednesday, Dionne announced: "We are doing our best and our priority is, once we get this pumping system set up on Friday, we hope to get enough volume that they will be the priority to turn the water back on."
In the meantime, Bear says community members are doing their best to minimize the effects of the spill, including reducing their water consumption by nearly 40 percent. Bottled water has also been delivered to older members of the community.
The community is also playing an active role in helping to clean up the spill.
"We did a water ceremony asking for forgiveness from the Creator for what we as humanity have done to get us to this point of suffering," Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations vice chief Kimberly Jonathan said at a gathering the organization organized on Wednesday.
Bill Morin, the manager for public works in a nearby First Nation community, said, "I'm concerned about the impact it's going to have on the environment … the vegetation and the ecosystem." He added, "being First Nations people, it's part of our tradition to protect the environment, and that's something I've been talking to people here about."