After decades of waiting, some residents of a Vancouver Island First Nation have clean drinking water hooked up for the first time.
Members of Cowichan Tribes have lived along Indian Road since the 1940s, but have not had potable water in that time, despite being just two kilometres from the City of Duncan.
On Friday, people living in 20 of those properties finally saw that change.
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“It’s been a long time coming, that’s for sure,” Cowichan Tribes member Amita Seymour told Global News.
“It was unbelievable for me; I got pretty choked up about (it). It was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe it — we can drink water from our own tap,’” added member Bubba Qwulshemut.
Qwulshemut has relied on either well water or bottle water his entire life, including three decades in Cowichan, raising his family.
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He said the water plumbed into the house fizzed “like pop” when it came out of the tap, and was only suitable for doing laundry or bathing — and even then, only on good days.
His daughter Adrienne Peter, now grown, has been raising her children under the same conditions.
“Having to use bottled water for everything from cooking dinner, from bathing our babies — Making a jug of juice had to come out of a bottle,” she said.
“It’s definitely a whole new world for us.”
On Friday, the community marked the milestone with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
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“You know, when we think about water that’s not safe for our community we think about this happening in rural communities, but really it’s here and we’re the biggest nation here in B.C. and we don’t have clean drinking water for our people,” community health nurse Nilak Ironhawk-Tommy said.
Despite the affected properties being just a stone’s throw from Duncan, it has taken decades of work to secure the necessary federal funding to make clean drinking water a reality for the community.
And even then, there is still work to be done. About 25 homes in the area remain without drinkable water, with no timeline for when they’ll be hooked up to the clean supply.
“My heart goes out to those who are still having to live that way, because I know what that was like,” Qwulshemut said.
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