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Saskatchewan, BC First Nations make headway on wastewater infrastructure

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Lebret-Village
Situated in the scenic Qu'Appelle Valley on Hwy 56, Lebret’s upgraded $3.3-million wastewater infrastructure project will also serve Star Blanket Cree Nation’s Wa-Pii-Moos-Toosis reserve. Photo credit: Tourism Saskatchewan

As Saskatchewan’s Star Blanket Cree Nation celebrates the opening of an upgraded wastewater treatment plant this fall, their Indigenous neighbours to the west in British Columbia’s shíshálh Nation have begun the journey towards their own new sewage infrastructure, now that a federal loan has been secured.

The completed $3.3-million infrastructure project for Star Blanket Cree Nation’s Wa-Pii-Moos-Toosis reserve has been in the works since 2020, and will now serve about 300 residents in the nearby Village of Lebret, and about 126 reserve residents.

The wastewater work involved new aerated lagoons, a submerged attached growth reactor cell, and a new storage cell and pumping station. Crews also installed a new forcemain, a new lift station with backup generator, lagoon cells, and an innovative treatment to remove ammonia, local officials explained.

“Our Nation prides itself in caring for Mother Earth and the protection of our land and environment. This project provides comfort knowing that the new wastewater project treats effluent to a much higher standard,” announced Star Blanket First Nation Chief Michael Starr, in a statement.

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Star Blanket’s wastewater upgrades recently won a Calling Lakes Ecomuseum Water Award for achieving five United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and protecting the water in the Qu’Appelle River System.

Meanwhile, local officials of the shíshálh Nation Government District in B.C. have finalized a loan with the Canadian Infrastructure Bank (CIB) for more than $6 million. As the CIB’s first wastewater investment, the funds will go towards replacing the community’s current wastewater treatment plant that has reached its end of life after 26 years.

New infrastructure will serve some 1,500 members of the community just northwest of Vancouver.

This new replacement plant and improved outfall will serve 91 connected residential units and support the conversion and connection of 88 buildings, which currently rely on septic wastewater systems. The additional capacity of the plant will make it possible for the shíshálh Nation to develop and connect future high-density residential housing developments.

“The agreement reminds me of why our Nation decided to go down the Self-Governing path in the first place,” explained shíshálh Nation Chief Henry Warren Paull, in an official statement. “It shows how issues can be meaningfully addressed through a collaborative discussion and agreement. This bodes well for the future,” he added.

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