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Original article published by The Chronicle Journal.

An unique initiative that helps provides safe drinking water for indigenous communities in Northern Ontario is expanding.

The Keewaytinook Okimakanak’s Safe Water Project will expand to an additional 14 First Nations this year thanks to a more than $4 million investment by the federal government.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett and Kenora MP Bob Nault announced the funding during a tour of the Keewaytinook Centre of Excellence in Dryden on Wednesday.

“We are delighted the government is continuing its support of our efforts to improve First Nations’ access to safe, clean drinking water,” said Keewaytinook Okimakanak CEO Geordi Kakepetum. “With this new funding, we will be able to build on our success, and assist more communities looking for proven solutions to their drinking water challenges.”

Developed by the Chiefs of Keewaytinook Okimakanak, the Safe Water Project has already ended long-standing boil water advisories in three First Nations communities, and is on track to lift an advisory that has been in place in one community for over 15 years. The funding will allow the project to be implemented in an additional 14 First Nations represented by the Shibogama First Nations Council, the Windigo First Nations Council and the Independent First Nations Alliance. Many of their communities are facing challenges accessing safe drinking water.

The Safe Water Project strengthens the capacity of communities to manage their drinking water systems by providing them with: focused training and certification for local water operators; operational support to local operators while they pursue certification; and, proven technology that monitors water on a continuous basis.

The Safe Water Project was launched in May 2015 and builds on Keewaytinook Okimakanak’s years of experience delivering water operator training and certification to First Nations and municipalities.

Officials with the three tribal councils say they look forward to training community members as water operators and ending boil water advisories in their communities.

Keewaytinook Okimakanak is a non-political chiefs council serving six First Nations in Northwestern Ontario.

The council advises and assists its members and provides services in areas such as health, education, economic development, and public works.