SIX NATIONS — After years of empty promises from various levels of government, unforeseen delays, protests, controversy over a protected species of fish, and damage done by a flooding Grand River, the new $41 million Six Nations Water Treatment Plant is now finished and ready to bring enough potable drinking water to take the community into the 21st century. And they did it all on budget, according to Chief Bill Montour and economic development director Matt Jamieson.
The Grand Opening of the new state-of-the-art facility happened Friday with members of the Elected Band Council, project engineers and Mike Reinders of Maple-Reinders Construction who built the facility from below the ground up.
“Mike Reinders was great to work with and helped us with a little give here and a little take there to keep the project on target,” said Chief Montour.
“It’s a partnership of us working together with your community,” Reinders responded. “It’s a project we are proud of as well. It means this community can now grow.”
After countless delays that spanned four administrations, it was a great relief to current Elected Chief Montour to see construction finally complete on the new plant, which began on April 16 of 2010. “We lost 27 days due to flooding during construction of the new intake pumping station,” said Montour.
Now that it’s complete, even if there is a flood, there won’t be any problem because all the equipment is on the top level of the building, according to design engineer, Justin Gee.
Tours through the new facility were conducted following the complex step-by-step journey from the edge of the Grand River to the tap.
On hand was Steve Lickers, who along with his crew has served the community above and beyond the call of duty while trying to keep the outdated and overburdened old treatment plant equipment duct taped together long after the plant should have been shut down.
“This community is lucky to have a guy like Steve Lickers,” said Montour. “In times of bad weather these guys almost lived over there (at the old plant beside Chiefswood Heritage Museum.) He is a level #3 operator and is going for his level #4 now. We have three other operators at level #1 who will be going to level #2 soon. So when it comes time for Steve to put his feet up and retire, there will be people here able to take over.”
Over the next two weeks Lickers will be working with engineers to finish learning the ins and outs of the system.
The entire plant is automated to the point that, theoretically, it only takes one person to run it, but it will take a few more to keep the equipment maintained and the facility clean.
Despite all the hoopla, and as important as this step is, it only represents the tip of the financial iceberg. Getting the water piped to the 2200 homes that are now dependant on wells, as well as to areas earmarked for housing developments, like the Painter Road site which 800 new homes are planned for, plus new businesses and most of the local schools, will cost another estimated $100 million or more.
Of course incoming drinkable water must also be coupled with sewers and a sewage treatment plant
It will be up to the next council to find a way to make that happen, which may be a bigger job than getting the new water treatment plant online.
“We will need three more water towers built as well,” says Montour.
Although this plant opens up a whole new set of problems, it is the linchpin for any kind of new development and growth for the community.
But those problems are for another day. Friday’s open house was all smiles and handshakes.