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Ontario First Nation celebrates new water systems on Manitoba border

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First Nation residents of Ontario-based Shoal Lake 40 are celebrating the groundbreaking of a new water treatment and distribution system that will end seven long-term drinking water advisories that have been in place since February 1997, and bring a reliable supply of safe, clean drinking water to 292 people.

Under a joint venture with Shoal Lake 40 Contractors LP and Sigfusson Northern Ltd., the project will see the creation of a water treatment plant, reservoir, raw water intake structure and lift station, as well as the installation of water main connections and fire hydrants.

Construction of the new water treatment system is anticipated to be completed by December 2020, with Indigenous Services Canada contributing up to $33 million for the project.

“After decades of denial, our people can finally look forward to the day when we, like the citizens of Winnipeg, can turn on our taps and access clean, safe Shoal Lake water,” announced Shoal Lake 40 Chief Erwin Redsky in a public statement.

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Parts of the community have had to rely on ferries bringing in bottled water since 1997.

Shoal Lake is the water supply source for the City of Winnipeg. The reserve straddles the Ontario-Manitoba border 55 kilometres west of Kenora and a short distance south of the TransCanada Highway.

Until the June 2019 completion of Freedom Road, Shoal Lake 40’s access to the mainland was cut off for 100 years by Winnipeg’s water infrastructure located on their reserve. The road’s completion has brought a new sense of hope to many within the community.

“Building on the success of Freedom Road, the awarding of the construction contract for our new water treatment system continues our work with willing partners to correct past wrongs in the spirit of reconciliation,” stated Chief Redsky.

The current Liberal government has lifted 87 long-term water advisories, while 56 remain.

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