OTTAWA -- A hundred more families in Island Lake should have running water and flushing toilets this Christmas.
Jonathan Flett, executive director of the Island Lake Tribal Council, told the Free Press Thursday most of the retrofits are completed to add toilets, sinks and taps with running water to 100 additional homes on the area's four reserves.
Flett said it's now time to turn attention the remaining 842 homes where slop pails fill in for toilets and drinking water is lugged by hand to the homes from community water pipes.
"We're onto Phase 2," Flett said.
Several Manitoba chiefs used a trip to Ottawa for a special gathering of the Assembly of First Nations this week to pursue their agenda with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.
In a proposal submitted to the department last month, the Island Lake Tribal Council estimates it will cost almost $40 million more to finish retrofitting the remaining homes with plumbing. The cost per home varies from $35,725 to $64,850, depending on whether it needs to be wheelchair-accessible or includes a laundry room. It notes bulk savings can be realized if they use public tendering for supplies.
The proposal calls for retrofitting 218 homes in each of 2013 and 2014, 210 in 2015 and the final 196 homes in 2017.
A year ago, Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan committed to fixing the problem and the department put up $6.9 million for the first year of retrofits. In addition to plumbing the 100 homes, the money bought 13 sewage and water trucks and materials to build garages for them.
Duncan has not committed to any more money to retrofit additional homes next year.
"We have invested in the retrofitting of 100 homes throughout the four communities and will continue to work with these communities to build upon the significant improvements we have already made," said Jan O'Driscoll, Duncan's press secretary.
The government has asked the four communities to submit feasibility studies. So far, three of the four have been done and two have already been submitted to the government. St. Theresa Point is expected to submit its report in January and Garden Hill's study is now being finalized.
Flett said there needs to be money pledged by the end of the year or there won't be enough time to place orders and get materials trucked up on winter roads.
The running-water issues in Island Lake got national attention in 2010 after the Free Press reported how dire the situation was for those who live there.
ISLAND LAKE REGION
Reserves: Garden Hill, St. Theresa Point, Wasagamack, Red Sucker Lake
Population: 9,615 on reserve
Number of homes: 1,522
Number of homes still without running water: 842
Number of homes that got running water in the last year: 100
Estimated cost to retrofit the remaining homes: $39.7 million