Cowichan Tribes members were celebrating Tuesday, July 28 as the Trestle and Wilson Road areas finally get clean drinking water after more than a decade of boil water advisories.
It’s a project 35 years in the making and Chief Chip Seymour told a big crowd at the Trestle Road chlorination station that he’s personally known of the need since the 1980s.
He explained that when he first began working for Cowichan Tribes he saw that the area “had concrete tanks that people walked to to get their water.”
Although it’s taken a long time, Seymour said, “I look on this as a big success.”
He thanked all the governments, agencies and companies involved and then praised the area residents for their patience in waiting so long.
A ribbon cutting featured representatives from several of the governments involved.
Years of collaboration by Cowichan Tribes, Chatwin Engineering, the City of Duncan, the Municipality of North Cowichan, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and many others have put an end to the boil water advisories by connecting to Duncan’s water system, installing a chlorination building, booster pump and 1,400 metres of water lines.
It’s one of seven communities in Cowichan Tribes that have been on boil-water advisories for more than 10 years, Seymour said.
Vancouver Island North MP and Minister of State John Duncan praised the degree of collaboration he saw in the project.
“Clean water is vital to a community’s well being. Improving water infrastructure for First Nations is a priority for our government,” he said.
A clean water supply benefits the community, Duncan said, pointing out that not only does it increase the possibility of economic development, it also improves such down-to-earth necessities as fire protection.
Duncan Mayor Phil Kent said his municipality only played a minor part in the project but he was personally delighted to see it completed.
Access to clean drinking water should be a right, he said, adding, “it really shouldn’t have taken this much time,” especially since the area had such “sweet water” to offer.
Cowichan Tribes sustainable housing manager Fred Bosma said, “this is the beginning of a wave of projects. More are coming.”
He also pointed out that although everyone at the event was celebrating clean drinking water, a companion sewer service was also being completed.
There had been “many failed septic systems” that had had a serious impact on quality of life, he said.
“We’re hoping the success we see today is a pattern we can take for new projects.”
Some other speakers mentioned their happiness at seeing a long ordeal finally over as residents nearby had been unable even to brush their teeth with their tap water while others were looking forward to better health for the families nearby and still others offered thanks that some Tribes members had actually been employed on the project.
Bosma also praised some of the nearby property owners who “gave up large tracts” of their land so the project could be completed.