Fuel drums, an overturned truck and an entire house are among the items strewn across parts of West Point and West Channel First Nation in Hay River, Northwest Territories, after major flooding the week last.
Community members are trying to pick up the pieces after devastating flooding prompted an evacuation order for around 4,000 people in the area and now people like Janice Moore are worried about fuel contamination.
“If you go around the West Channel in general you can smell the smell of diesel and the smell of fuel,” said Moore, who now has two metal fuel tanks and a metal drum that says “fuel jet” scattered in his yard.
Moore planned to create an herb garden on his West Channel property. But when she first visited it, traveling by boat, she said her yard was covered in eight inches of water with an oily sheen on top.
A few days later, there is a dark spot near one of the black barrels in her yard which she says is evidence that oil has seeped into the ground.
Moore said the government doesn’t appear to be trying to clean up contaminated areas. She wonders why no one does formal environmental assessments and wants the government to dig up contaminated soil and provide people with clean-up kits.
“Such a thing would help us remove [the soil] and fix the situation and contain it so it doesn’t continually seep into the ground.”
Moore also fears for the quality of drinking water coming from Great Slave Lake. She said people pump water from their homes into ditches and all the water, clean or not, goes back into the body of water.
“Like a war zone”
West Point First Nation Chief Kenny Cayen said restoring his community would be a major effort.
In the reserve, entire buildings have been moved to different places, some houses are still under water and there is debris everywhere. The mess includes boats on a children’s playground and an overturned truck on the side of a road.
There is an entire house blocking an access road to four houses.
“My heart is broken for my people,” Chief Cayen said. “It’s like a war zone. It’s like debris everywhere and a lot of stuff…we don’t know who it belongs to.”
“I hope we can get our lives back on track,” he said.
On Monday, Premier Caroline Cochrane and Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs Shane Thompson and MPs Rocky Simpson, RJ Simpson and Ron Bonnetrouge will be in Hay River to meet with community and First Nations leaders to plan for flood recovery. .
The Prime Minister and Minister Thompson are scheduled to speak to reporters at 4:30 p.m.