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First Nation adds voice to drinking water concerns in the North Okanagan

Manure is spread on a 210 acre field above the Hullcar aquifer in summer 2015.
Image Credit: Al Price
February 12, 2016 - 2:30 PM

SPALLUMCHEEN - A B.C. First Nation is getting involved in a North Okanagan community’s battle for clean drinking water.

Splatsin chief Wunuxtsin Kukpi7 Wayne Christian says he’s very concerned about high nitrate levels in the Hullcar aquifer, which overlaps the reserve and put numerous Spallumcheen residents on a water quality advisory for the past two years. Residents believe a large dairy farm in the area that sprays liquid manure on a field above the aquifer is the cause of the high nitrate levels.

The band has roughly 15 to 20 homes on wells in the Hullcar area of its reserve lands, and while their water has yet to be tested for nitrates, Christian is deeply concerned for his peoples’ health.

“There are young families, there are elders, there are people that have health issues — there’s a wide range of people on the well systems of that aquifer,” Christian says.

The Interior Health Authority does not have jurisdiction on the reserve, but Christian says the First Nation Health Authority has been contacted to test the water as soon as possible. He's not sure when the wells were lasted tested. 

“We need to get a good idea in terms of solid data,” Christian says.

High nitrates in drinking water are linked to a number of serious conditions, including potentially fatal ‘blue baby’ syndrome in infants, cancer and thyroid gland dysfunctions. The water quality advisory issued by the Interior Health Authority for customers of Steele Water Springs, which draws from the Hullcar aquifer, advised that pregnant women, infants under six months and those with compromised immune systems not consume the water.

While band members aren’t on Steele Springs water, Christian says the water source is all connected and fears the contamination has spread.

“We did studies years ago that showed it’s basically an underground lake there that covers the valley,” Christian says.

The band plans to meet in the near future with a group of Hullcar residents calling on Interior Health to order a full stop to the spraying of liquid manure above the aquifer.

“The thing with water is people don’t realize how precious it is until you don’t have it,” Christian says. “Our role is to speak about the whole issue, work together, look at potential legal strategies, and in terms of political process, see what we can do to assist the residents of the Hullcar area.”

Read previous stories about the Hullcar aquifer here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
InfoTel News Ltd

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