Six Nations has a brand-new $10 million waterline – but few can afford the cost to hook up to it.
Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council resolved last week to find funding to help homeowners pay the roughly $10,000 it will cost each household to hook up to the waterline, bringing clean, potable water to hundreds of homes that rely on cisterns and wells.
In 2018, A6N, a Six Nations-owned contracting company, completed the installation of a $10 million water line from the Six Nations Water Treatment Plant to a portion of the most densely populated area of the reserve. Servicing about 400 homes, the new waterline stretches from the water treatment plant to I.L. Thomas Elementary, OMSK Elementary, and the Oneida Business Park.
However, the waterlines were not hooked up to individual homes, leaving community members on the hook to pay up to $10,000 to get water service to their homes.
Coun. Wendy Johnson said the prohibitive cost has prevented community members from hooking up to the new waterline.
“I think council needs to come up with some funding,” said Johnson. “I’ve put this on the table before, to help homeowners with these costs. How do we make this happen (get the water line hooked up to all homes)? Council is the shareholder for A6N. We should be able to come up with a funding solution.”
Community members currently wishing to hook up to the waterline need to pay a $50 fee to get a quote from A6N, paid to Six Nations Public Works, in order to receive an estimate on how much it will cost to hook up to the waterline.
Different factors will result in different prices for homeowners, such as current landscaping or the type of foundation on the home, ranging from $4,000 to $10,000 to hook up to the waterline, council heard at its general meeting last week.
Once the quoted price is paid, A6N will complete the water main installation for the homeowner, which can take any more form two to three weeks.
Coun. Helen Miller said she’s received calls from community members who are confused about the costs and process of hooking up to the waterline and suggested council provide the community with more information on the process.
Coun. Wendy Johnson, who was elected in 2019, said she’s also received calls from concerned community members.
“Since I’ve been on council, I’ve heard nothing but complaints and concerns and questions about the waterline. This entire water project has been challenging at best. We have to make this easier on community members to get water hook up.”
She said clean water in First Nations communities is a “national issue” and “we’re making it near impossible for our own community members to hook up. We’re making it a financial burden to get a hookup.”
Matt Jamieson, director of the Six Nations Economic Development Corporation, which oversees A6N, said they didn’t have enough funding to extend water mains to homes.
“Ideally, we would have had the capital to hook up all homes but I understand that’s a pretty big chunk of funding.”
Coun. Johnson moved to find funding for homeowners to be able to hook up to water main.
“They can’t afford it,” she said. “It’s expensive. We have community members out of work, being hit with Covid still. We have to look at that. It’s (clean water) absolutely a social determinant of health. People have needs in this community. It’s our job to address those needs. I think we need to make a decision once and for all,” she said, to make it a priority to subsidize water main hookups for households.
Coun. Helen Miller opposed.
“We need to discuss this first. We don’t have money. What if we can’t find it?”