The community of Sugar Cane has been without water since Sunday forcing Williams Lake Indian Band staff to distribute bottled water round the clock to community members. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Water leak leaves Williams Lake Indian Band community without water since Sunday

A leak detection contractor expected to arrive Tuesday, meanwhile bottled water is being distributed

People living in Williams Lake Indian Band’s community of Sugar Cane have not had water from the tap since Sunday due to a leak somewhere in the system.

Chief administrative officer (CAO) Aaron Mannella said the entire community has been impacted, but staff has been hustling to get bottled water out to residents.

There is significant water loss somewhere between the reservoir on the hill across Highway 97 and the first point of contact, Mannella told the Tribune Monday.

“We are losing water at a very quick rate — at about 11 litres a second and we believe the location of the loss could be close to Highway 97, whether it’s above or below the road, we don’t know.”

A leak detection contractor will be coming from Vernon on Tuesday, March 3.

“The leak detection contractor will go from valve to valve to pinpoint and isolate where a loss can be,” Mannella said. “It’s a process of elimination.”

External agencies helping the community include Indigenous Services Canada, First Nations Health Authority, Emergency Management B.C., and WLIB has had great collaboration with the City of Williams Lake and Cariboo Regional District, Mannella said.

“I reached out to CAO Milo MacDonald at the City and they have agreed to provide shower facilities to our community members starting tomorrow.”

Showers will be available at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex.

It is likely the water shortage will continue for a few more days, Mannella said.

While the water situation is the bad news, Mannella said the good news is the tremendous support 15 local staff members have provided to residents.

“We probably handed out eight skids of water so far and we’ve handed out about 200, five-gallon jugs. We will be handing out water to our members at our operations maintenance shop until 10 o’clock tonight. We will be doing that until this ends.”

There are about 120 homes, other infrastructure, a daycare and a school in the community.

“The school has 27 kids and we’ve been working around the clock to accommodate their schedules.”

An alarm indicated at one point Sunday that the reservoir only had six per cent of its 350,00o-litre capacity.

Two companies from Williams Lake are providing water services — Gordon’s Septic, Water and HydroVac and Triple P Sanitation — bringing water trucks around the clock putting potable water directly into the water treatment plant.

“Everybody takes water for granted, and obviously I’ve only been in the fold since November, but what continues to astound me is that you’ve got the City of Williams Lake and you’ve got the village of Sugar Cane and it is its own municipality in its own way. We have to provide service and every bit of infrastructure for community members.”

Coincidentally, Manella added. Chief Willie Sellars met with Prime Minister’s chief aid last week in Ottawa and one of the topics of discussion was water infrastructure concerns at Sugar Cane.

“Even though the Williams Lake Indian Band has a land code and its own financial administration law, that only strips the community 35 per cent from the Indian Act,” he explained. “It puts responsibility on the federal government to make sure there is adequate infrastructure so I think what you are going to see from this is a significant amount of lobbying around our infrastructure and the fact that we have great water treatment but old infrastructure and old pipes.”

Read more: WLIB to begin leasing lots at Coyote Rock development

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