Construction is underway at Samson Cree First Nation, about 100 kilometres south of Edmonton, where the reserve is getting a new $32.5-million pumping system for wastewater treatment and collection at its existing plant, which has struggled to maintain capacity.
Samson’s largest federally-funded infrastructure project to date for the community of 11,000 aims to end ongoing issues like sewer backups and drinking water contamination on the reserve. Officials said Samson’s current septic system was designed to serve only about 2,000 residents.
“We are very excited about this wastewater project as it will have positive effects on our Nation’s environment,” Samson Cree Nation Chief Vernon J. Saddleback told media at the groundbreaking. “Indigenous Services Canada’s (ISC) financial commitment to the project and having Minister Philpott here at our sod-turning ceremony shows the commitment ISC has in maintaining their treaty relations with First Nations,” he added.
Kathleen Swampy, a councillor with Samson Cree First Nation, told the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) that cellars in local homes, as well as local infrastructure, would often be overwhelmed by raw sewage, leading to a series of illnesses in the community.
Canada’s federal budget for 2016 provided $1.8 billion over five years to improve on-reserve water and wastewater infrastructure, as well as ensure proper facility operation and maintenance, and support training for water system operators.
The Samson wastewater project upgrade is expected to be completed in the winter of 2020.