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9th March 2021
By Virginie Ann, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Eastern Door
Fri., March 5, 202

No chemical contaminants were found in Kanesatake’s drinking water, according to a recently released report from Indigenous Services Canada (ISC).

The Mohawk Council of Kanesatake disclosed the final study on February 17 on their Facebook page. The report stated that between September and October 2020, 17 sites in and out of the community were selected to have their water tested.

“Routine chemical analyses were performed, to screen for the presence of different chemicals in the groundwater,” said Eugene Nicholas, director of Kanesatake’s environmental department in a statement.

According to Leslie Michelson, the ISC spokesperson, the water assessment was conducted as a way to determine the presence of selenium, ammonia nitrogen, a variety of phenol compounds and lead that may have a negative impact on the surrounding environment.

“In the spring of 2020, the Quebec Ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (MELCC) carried out surface water testing along the Gratton Creek towards Lac Deux-Montagnes,” said Michelson, explaining that those contaminants were found in the surface water. “The ISC testing was conducted in order to determine if there were any possible impacts on the groundwater.”

Back in August 2020, an unknown leak was found in Gratton’s creek, a small body of water that flows from the G&R recycling site into the lake. The nature of the spill remains confidential but the Quebec government retracted G&R’s license a few months later in October, due to a breach of environmental regulations.

“The question is to see if what they find in the water is related to G&R or not,” said the grand chief of Kanesatake Serge Otsi Simon.

The ISC plan to have water testing was developed in collaboration with Kanesatake Health Centre (KHC), which selected a series of private wells, according to the documents. Community members along Etienne Road, Bonspille Road, the northern end of Mountain Road and the western end of Ste. Philomene granted permission to have their water wells sampled.

ccording to KCH spokesperson Robert Bonspiel, the 17 houses were randomly selected within proximity to the creek. However, ISC wouldn’t confirm whether or not those sites followed the water flow from the recycling site.

When asked if it was possible that other harmful contaminants that were not tested could be found in tap water, ISC’s response was unclear and didn’t mention the possible report’s oversight.

“Based on the results, it is determined that at the time of analysis, there is no direct influence from the Gratton Creek on the groundwater of the sites analyzed,” said Michelson.

The analysis comes at a time where the discussion surrounding drinkable water in Onkwehón:we communities has been at the forefront of Canadian media for the past few weeks.

A joint collaboration between six media outlets coordinated by the Institute for Investigative Journalism revealed information regarding the water problem in communities across the country - despite the 2015 electoral promise by the Liberals to eliminate all long-term drinking water advisories in First Nations by March 1, 2021.

The Liberal’s promise followed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the United Nations’s Human Right to Water recommendations demanding access to clean water in Onkwehón:we communities as a way to restore relationships impaired by years of colonial policies.

While the ISC report revealed no toxic elements in Kanesatake, many sources told The Eastern Door that they do not trust their wells and prefer to opt for bottled water.