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Damage to Ucluelet First Nation’s waterline more severe than anticipated

Click to play video: 'Tonga volcanic eruption might have contributed to B.C. First Nation water main break' Tonga volcanic eruption might have contributed to B.C. First Nation water main break
WATCH: Officials on Vancouver Island now believe that huge undersea volcanic eruption off Tonga might have contributed to cutting off the water supply to a Vancouver Island First Nation. Kylie Stanton explains – Jan 20, 2022

The Ucluelet First Nation could be without potable water for longer than expected, after damage to its waterline suspected to be linked to last week’s volcanic eruption near Tonga.

The waterline that supplies the First Nations community of hitacu̓ was snapped on Monday by a tug pulling a log boom.

Community leaders say they believe the line broke free form its anchors at the bottom of Ucluelet Inlet amid aggressive tidal currents, after last Saturday’s eruption triggered a tsunami advisory for the area.

Read more: Ucluelet First Nation without water, and Tonga tsunami surge probed as possible cause

Hitacu̓ residents have been relying on bottled water and showering at a nearby motel. They had hoped to have the line restored by early next week.

On Saturday, however, officials with the District of Ucluelet said damage to the line was more substantial than initially believed.

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“It has become clear that the existing water supply line has been damaged beyond repair and will have to be completely replaced in order to ensure a successful and reliable water supply to Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ going forward,” the district said on its website.

Click to play video: 'Tsunami advisory rescinded for B.C. coast after Tonga volcano eruption' Tsunami advisory rescinded for B.C. coast after Tonga volcano eruption
Tsunami advisory rescinded for B.C. coast after Tonga volcano eruption – Jan 15, 2022

It said crews had shifted strategies and now hoped to repurpose another existing submerged line to the First Nations community, and that necessary parts for the work would arrive Monday.

“Once installed we will quickly be able to confirm the usability of the line. This is good news, as the submerged water line once confirmed as usable will provide a more reliable, secure, and possibly quicker source of clean drinking water to Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ.”

The roughly 250 residents of hitacu̓ remain under a do-not-use water advisory, with water being trucked into the community’s water tower as a backup supply.

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Read more: Tsunami advisory rescinded for B.C. coast after Tonga volcano eruption

Once a functioning waterline is restored, it will still need to be flushed and tested before it can be deemed safe to use.

Last week, a tsunami advisory was put into place across four zones of B.C., including parts of Vancouver Island and the North Coast. An undersea volcano erupted near the Pacific nation of Tonga on Saturday, sending large tsunami waves crashing across the shore and people rushing to higher ground.

The disaster cause major damage and has left at least three people dead.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is reviewing data it collected in Ucluelet Harbour, but has yet to confirm a link between the damaged pipe and the eruption.

— with files from Elizabeth McSheffrey

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