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Slate Falls finally takes a clean drink of water

Dignitaries open $11.6-million new water treatment plant in northwestern community

The northwestern Ontario community of Slate Falls First Nation officially turned the taps on its new water treatment plant, March 6.

The $11.6-million plant, which was completed in February, puts an end to 11 drinking water advisories that had occurred over 14 years.

Until this winter, water in Slate Falls has been distributed by 11 pump houses, built in 1998. All of the pump houses have been under a drinking water advisory (DWA) since 2004.

There’s now clean, dependable drinking water to all residents, the Bimaychikamah Elementary School and other community buildings including the health centre, nurses' residence, and the community administration building. It also improves the firefighting capacity with connections to water pumps and hydrants.

Currently, there are 17 DWAs across the 49 communities in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) territory of northwestern Ontario.

Slate Falls Nation is an Ojibwe community First Nation of 187, located 122 kilometres north of Sioux Lookout. It is accessible by plane and an all-season road.

Kingdom Construction, an Ayr-based industrial and municipal projects contractor, was awarded the job back in 2016.

The scope of work consisted of building the treatment plant, a low lift pumping station, septic field and the installation of new heat traced and insulated water main piping throughout the community.

NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler joined Slate Falls Nation Chief Lorraine Crane, Federal Minister of Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott and officials from the Ontario Ministry of Indigenous Relations attended the opening.

“Slate Falls has struggled for 12 years to secure this project that will finally provide safe, reliable supplies of drinking water and I acknowledge the determination of Chief and Council to make this project a reality,” said Fiddler in a news release.

“This vital infrastructure investment has eliminated 11 drinking water advisories in NAN, and shows that the federal government is serious about fulfilling its commitment to end all water advisories in First Nation communities. We are pleased to celebrate this milestone and look for continued investments from the federal government for infrastructure projects to ensure that all First Nations in NAN territory have access to safe drinking water.”

Ottawa’s 2016 budget set aside $1.8 billion over five years to install and do upgrades of on-reserve water and wastewater infrastructure, ensure proper facility operation and maintenance and support the training of water system operators.