The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte – Kenhtè:ke Kanyen’kehá:ka will soon have more reliable safe drinking water at 320 more residences thanks to 21 kilometres of new water main infrastructure.
Chief Donald Maracle and the Council of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte (MBQ) hosted a sod-turning ceremony on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, at the corner of Beach Road and Young Street in Shannonville, marking the beginning of the third phase of the project, which has the long-term goal of contributing to the lifting of five long-term drinking water advisories in the community.
Drinking water advisories are preventive measures used to protect the public from drinking water that is potentially unsafe, or from drinking water that is confirmed to be unsafe based on water quality testing. They are issued both in First Nation communities and off-reserve by municipal, provincial, or territorial governments in communities across Canada. A drinking water advisory becomes long-term when it has been in place for more than a year.
“For years and years and years, our Council and people in our community have clamoured to have safe drinking water and I’m a firm believer, as Carolyn Bennett said in the United Nations, that the access to safe drinking water is a basic human right,” Chief Maracle said.
“And so today, we’re here in our community, we’re working hard and satisfying that human right to have safe drinking water.”
Maracle described what he called “the many challenges to our drinking water,” and noted, “we have water insecurity because the wells can dry up and most of the wells in the community are contaminated. [Homes] on the shoreline, they have floods and then they have the effect of low water table where wells go dry. And quite often, at this time of the year, the water smells swampy and is unfit to drink. Plus, we have blue-green algae blooming along the Bay of Quinte, which is toxic for all purposes for drinking and cooking.”
The Mohawk First Nation, Infrastructure Canada, and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) worked together to expand water service to Tyendinaga Territory, and Maracle thanked the many individuals who have contributed to the project, including his staff that worked on attaining federal funding.
“It requires teamwork and a lot of work, and we have to acknowledge all the efforts of everybody,” expressed Maracle.
The project is part of the Government of Canada’s project to end all long-term drinking water advisories on public drinking water systems on reserves and is being funded through the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund (DMAF). Infrastructure Canada is investing more than $30 million in this project through the DMAF. The MBQ are contributing a further $10 million on their own, and the Chief thanked the Band Council for that decision.
According to Maracle, when Phase One began on July 20, 2019, Indigenous Services Canada provided $14.5 million to construct 8 km of water mains and an elevated storage reservoir, extending water services along York Road to the village of Shannonville. This portion of the reserve will be serviced by the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte water treatment plant that was constructed in 2015, with the financial assistance of $26.7 million from Indigenous Services Canada.
The additional funding from the DMAF commits $30 million in federal funding to construct water main infrastructure on un-serviced roads to homes that have experienced dry wells during drought conditions.
“We very much appreciate the financial contributions of Infrastructure Canada and Indigenous Services Canada to enable the community to achieve this important goal,” Chief Maracle said as the project entered Phase Three, the final phase of the project.
The ongoing improvements to the community’s water and wastewater infrastructure will see water distribution pipes reach the majority of the community’s 750 homes and businesses. More than 2,500 residents in Tyendinaga Territory will gain access to safe drinking water, while the number of people affected by drought will decrease by 83 per cent through the full project.
“This will improve the quality of life for a lot of people,” said Maracle.