Water Confidential by Susan Blacklin

Water is a basic human right. In 2024, in Canada, there are First Nations Communities that have been living under Boil Water Advisories for up to 28 years.

In her eye-opening book, Susan tells the story of her journey with her husband, Hans Peterson, a scientist and safe water advocate. It is a story of perseverance and tenacity, told in a way that highlights the sacrifices made by Hans and Susan in their battle for clean, safe water for all.

The fact that Canada has safe water guidelines, and not regulations, seems like semantics, but regulations are protected by laws, whereas guidelines are merely suggestions. Canada is the only industrialized nation without safe water regulations.

The writer reminds us of tragedies like Walkerton (7 people died, more than 2,000 ill), after which one might assume there must be a push for higher water standards. What is made evident in her story is the lack of science-based water treatment in many Canadian communities. Many examples are given of First Nations communities, whose members suffer skin rashes, among other health problems, with little being done to resolve the problem.

What is made evident in her story is the lack of science-based water treatment in many Canadian communities.

In a bit of irony, while devoting his career to helping First Nations and rural communities ensure they receive healthy water, Hans let his own health (and later on, his marriage) slide. As Susan tells her story, you realize the extremely important role she played in her husband’s work. Another bit of irony is the fact that she and her children had to work very hard to get water to their remote house (she compares it to the cobbler’s children going barefoot).

This book brings forward the surprising fact that in too many cases, government funding for water improvements goes to engineering companies that do suboptimal work, with wishy-washy guidelines and little accountability. Note is made of extra money then being spent to fix the water treatment systems they had already been paid to design!

One story from 2023 had 5.3 million litres of Imperial Oil’s tailing pond Tar Sands leaching into the nearby First Nations communities. Those affected were the last to know. There are no regulations for downstream water treatment systems, even though the tailing ponds pose a great health risk.

While Hans traveled frequently, usually to Indigenous communities, helping to set up his water treatment system (and teaching communities how to continue the process independently), Susan is left to run the household and raise the children. This book is a homage to his dedication and sacrifice.

Susan continues to call for independent, unbiased scientists to evaluate water treatment systems in Canada. Perhaps after reading this, you might be inspired to put pressure on politicians to regulate our drinking water.

Hans and Susan devoted their lives to the Safe Drinking Water Foundation. The royalties from her book will go to the Safe Drinking Water Foundation and the Keepers of the Water. Susan continues to call for independent, unbiased scientists to evaluate water treatment systems in Canada. Perhaps after reading this, you might be inspired to put pressure on politicians to regulate our drinking water.

Susan Blacklin was born near London, UK, and later moved to Canada. While living in Saskatchewan, she supported her now late ex-husband, Dr. Hans Peterson, in founding the Safe Drinking Water Foundation; together, they devoted fifteen years of their lives to bringing safe drinking water to First Nations and rural communities. Susan retired to Vancouver Island, where she now pursues her writing, painting, and gardening. Water Confidential is her first book.

Publisher: Caitlin Press (March 22, 2024)
Paperback 9″ x 6″ | 208 pages
ISBN: 9781773861319

Dawn is a multimedia artist best known for her cartoons drawn under the nom de plume, dawnymock.  She was awarded the art award from Bathurst High School in 1984. She is a member of the Association of Canadian Cartoonists and CartoonStock.com.  Her art has been included in Herné Bay Cartoon Fest, 1001 Visages in Val-David, Quebec, in Aislin’s book of favourite Covid cartoons,  Vancouver Science World and in the Globe & Mail. Her art was exhibited at UNB's World Water Day. She has donated many drawings and paintings to local charities and school fundraisers. Her work is available on CartoonStock (dawnymock)  and Twitter (@dawnymock). She lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

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