Northern Ontario First Nations funded for drinking water system upgrade

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The design phase is underway on a new water treatment plant for Batchewana First Nation, near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, now that $320,000 in federal funding has been secured for the clean water access project.

Once completed, the new plant will provide clean water to nearly 200 community members. The decentralized system will clean and filter water directly at the point of entry for each residence.

ARCADIS Canada Inc. has been selected as the project’s design consultant.

“Our members have been waiting for safe drinking water from the tap, and while the process took longer than we hoped, we are thrilled to see the design phase underway and are optimistic to see the completion of the project,” announced Chief Dean Sayers of Batchewana First Nation in reaction to the April 16 funding announcement from Indigenous Services Canada.

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The water treatment plant, which is estimated to cost $7 million, will be located in Goulais Mission, while decentralized water systems will be located in Obadjiwan. Both are settlements of Batchewana.

Residents of the Goulais Mission community have struggled for more than decade with the reality that they haven’t been able to drink water from the tap due to potentially dangerous levels of uranium. The water was, however, deemed safe for cleaning and bathing, although some families still chose to use bottled water.

Chief Sayers told reporters at the recent funding announcement that he’s spent more than a million dollars providing bottled water to residents over the last 10 years or so. He also noted that the water advisory had placed a major damper on the area’s economic development.

Sayers hopes to move the clean water access project forward as much as possible prior to the 2019 federal election in October.

In February 2016, a member of Batchewana First Nations appeared before a United Nations committee in Switzerland looking for aid to resolve the reserve’s drinking water crisis.

An estimated 57 drinking water advisories remain in place for First Nations reserves across Canada.

Eel Ground, in New Brunswick, lifted a long-term drinking water advisory from the Big Hole Tract Public Water System last week, following the completion of a new water treatment system. The advisory had been in effect since October of 2008. Work continues on the community’s new septic system.

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