Ahousaht declares state of emergency over contaminated water, low reservoir
An island community off Tofino has declared a state of emergency over two serious threats to its water supply.
Ahousaht, a small community of 1,000 people on Flores Island, saw its reservoir levels drop to dangerously low levels over the weekend.
Water is so scarce that the community doesn't have enough to fight fires if one were to break out, community leaders say.
Not only that, but the dwindling water supply that is coming in has been contaminated by mud and other debris from a weekend storm, with turbidity levels off the charts.
"There was such a severe, heavy rain and wind through the weekend that it was very clear there was a section of the dam where the water was just brown," said Ahousaht administration manager Anne Atleo.
The community has been receiving shipments of bottled water, which are being delivered door to door.
Some elders, infants and those with health issues have had to leave the community, heading to Tofino to be with family who have access to clean water.
Fresh water that's been barged in is being pumped into the community's water treatment plant but levels are still too low for firefighting.
@lizziepetra #AHOUSAHT is under State of Emergency. Water resevoir is badly contaminated with debris, mud etc. Which is effecting the water treatment filtration systems. Severe water restrictions in place. Structure fires would be at risk. EMBC has refused a task # to assist.— Ahousaht Admin (@AhousahtAdmin) November 5, 2018
For now, residents are being asked to boil water, hold off on any showers and not flush toilets.
"A couple of years ago when we had a break in the water main itself, we actually lost a home," said Atleo. "Fire suppression is one of our key safety factors."
Members of the community have been taking on various tasks to help with the emergency, many working around the clock.
"My crew went through the whole night," said volunteer Gord Campbell. "The crew consisted of all staff from our school."
Ahousaht is receiving some assistance from Tofino and other First Nations community, something Campbell said he was grateful for.
"It's a bad thing that's happened, but in a sense, it brings our community together and it shows the true nature of our people," he said.
Officials say it will likely take several more days or even weeks until the problem is under control.