Pikwàkanagàn announces new water treatment facility

Robert Fisher
Staff Reporter

PIKWÀGANAGÀN – The Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn held a ceremony last Wednesday to announce a new water treatment facility for the community.

Chief Greg Sarazin said the journey to the announcement has been a long one. He recounted how his ancestors, from the 1600s, pulled water directly from the Bonnechere River. When he was growing up, “if I was thirsty, I just needed to dip into the river and have a drink. Well, not so today.”

Water from the river is no longer potable. Some families on the reserve still draw water from the river because the wells at their homes are even worse. “My 82-year-old mother’s lifelong home, the home that I was raised in, is one of those households,” said Sarazin. Pikwàkanagàn is the only Algonquin reserve in Ontario.

Time has come to fix the problem, he said.

The youth drum group Papase performed to welcome people into the large tent where the announcement was made. Algonquin elder Francis Sarazin performed a smudging on the shovel the chief would use for the groundbreaking and he smudged other attendees who approached him.

Chief Sarazin said the work to get a water treatment plant for the community began in 1988. “I have a clear memory of that. I was chief at the time.”

Many hydrological and geotechnical investigations were completed to find a source of water. In 1997, engineers determined that no area within the reserve was suitable for a communal well. Work continued through 2016 to find a water source for a common well and none could be found. Metals and other minerals, such as uranium, were found in the water affecting 99 per cent of the homes on the reserve. Bacteria, such as E. coli, were found and measurements exceeded allowable limits.

When no source for clean water was available, the project changed course to the construction of a water treatment plant to provide potable water to the community, including installing distribution lines to homes. The system will use slow sand filtration to purify water drawn from the Bonnechere.

The Ministry of Indigenous Services approved the project in 2019. Construction began in 2023 and completion is scheduled for 2025.

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