ARCHIVED - Akwesasne Water Treatment Facility

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Using traditional knowledge to guide modern technology, the Akwesasne First Nation is a role model for other communities wishing to develop their own first class water treatment facility. Environmentally friendly in design the plant ensured that little disruption occurred to wildlife, fish and vegetation while providing clean drinking water to the members of the Akwesasne First Nation.

Transcript: Akwesasne

Akwesasne, "the land where the partridge drums," situated along the St. Lawrence River, is unique among First Nations communities.

The traditional territory of this Mohawk Nation has communities on Cornwall Island, in Ontario - St. Regis, and Snye in Quebec, and the St. Regis Indian Reservation in New York State.

Band membership numbers about 10,000 making Akwesasne on of the most populated First Nations in the country.

Akewesane's state-of-the-art water treatment system on Cornwall Island also makes it unique. Like many First Nations communities across Canada, Akwesasne faced serious water problems, with up to 70% of its wells contaminated.

So the community set out to rectify the problem, using traditional knowledge to guide the modern technology necessary to build first-class water treatment and wastewater management systems.

When they first started discussing the need for a new water treatment plant 15 years ago, the environmental and cultural sensitivities were foremost concerns.

Ensuring as little disruptions to wildlife, fish and vegetation as possible was a priority.

During the design phase, the water treatment plant was positioned among existing mature trees, When it was necessary to remove one tree during constructions, it was replaced with five more.

Great care was taken to protect the Butternut trees, prized for their medicinal value and the Black Ash, that has great cultural significance to the Mohawk people. It took five years of environmental analysis and design as well as extensive consultation, within the Mohawk community, and all levels of government to bring the class 3 water facility from concept to completion.

Kawehnoke Water Treatment Plant opened on Cornwall Island in August 2006.

This facility can treat and pump half a million gallons every day. An extensive computer network, monitors water services throughout Akwesasne from the central location, and provides an automatic backup system. An ultra-violet disinfections program ensures the community has the highest quality drinking water. And there is a full-service laboratory, where over 100 tests on water quality can be performed, and where operators and students are trained.

Wastewater is carefully monitored in several small plans throughout Akwesasne, employing environmentally-friendly techniques, such as using rich nutrients from the backwash to improve soil conditions.

Akwesasne's water operators, all of whom are band members, have undergone rigorous training for up to 5 years, and take Ministry of the Environment-approved courses, as part of their curriculum. The expert operators take care of everything to do with water systems and infrastructure, including operation, maintenance, service, repair and distribution.

That makes them critical assess to community health and safety. Families in several hundred residencies in Akwesasne now enjoy the health benefts of clear, clean water in their daily lives. Many larger facilities in the community are not hooked up the new water system. The daycare centre's parents can rest assured that their children will be beneficiaries of clean water. New water lines reach schools, a chronic care facility, and restaurants.

And there is more to come. Plans are in place for the expansion of Akwesasne's water treatment systems to service the balance of homes on the Reserve. Work will also continue to deal with wastewater collection and treatment. All this will call fro more analysis, planning, source water protection and trained operators. Akwesasne's record of accomplishments has made it a role model for other First Nation communities.

Its experts are called upon to give presentations and advice and have an open-door policy welcoming delegations from all over the world. The foresight and dedication of the Mohawks of Akwesasne, to providing one of life's essential elements ensures the health and safety of today's generation, and generations to come.

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