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Batchewana First Nation celebrates new water treatment plant

Residents of Goulais Bay 15A now have a steady supply of clean, drinkable water after years of relying upon wells containing elevated levels of uranium

Batchewana First Nation celebrated the official grand opening of its long-awaited Chi We Kwe Don water treatment plant in Goulais Bay 15A Thursday. 

The facility went online this past March, pumping clean, drinkable water into 49 homes in the small reserve situated 45 minutes north of Sault Ste. Marie for the first time in several years. The federal government allotted $14.6 million for feasibility, design and construction of the new water treatment plant in addition to 10 point-of-entry water systems for Obadjiwan 15E — another community belonging to Batchewana First Nation situated in the Batchawana Bay area. 

“Water is very significant for all of us — we live here in some of the most beautiful water areas of Lake Superior right here, and undrinkable water in this area was a top priority for me,” said Sault Ste. Marie MP Terry Sheehan, speaking with SooToday during the grand opening. “I was tenacious in my advocacy for it, and I’m very pleased that we were able to come to the table with $14.6 million to address what is a basic human need and right.”

For the past couple of decades, Goulais Bay 15A has been relying on wells containing elevated levels of uranium. Batchewana First Nation Chief Dean Sayers says his community has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars supplying community members with bottled water over the years. 

“For me, it’s unfortunate that we had to go to the level of lobbying and begging and asking the Crown governments to fulfill their obligations and promises to us — they sometimes refer to that as fiduciary obligations. But if they were my trustee, I’m not sure I would keep them as my trustee,” said Sayers, speaking with SooToday. “It’s just that they don’t seem to have our best interests at heart, and if they had our best interests, we wouldn’t have all these boil water advisories all over Canada.”

The water treatment plant is built to meet the 20-year potable water needs of the community and has the capacity to bring water to as many as 60 additional homes in the future.

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James Hopkin

About the Author: James Hopkin

James Hopkin is a reporter for SooToday based in Sault Ste. Marie
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