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New water treatment plant provides safe and reliable drinking water for Chippewas of Nawash First Nation

The Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation is located in Neyaashiinigmiing (Cape Croker) in southern Ontario on Georgian Bay. The on-reserve population is approximately 830 and is projected to grow to approximately 1,400 by 2040. 

The community has been on a boil water advisory since 2017. The existing water treatment plant (WTP), originally commissioned in 1990, has had numerous challenges. As well, the water distribution system experiences extensive leakage - approximately 60% to 70% of the drinking water is lost from the system. Currently, only three of the 68 hydrants can provide the recommended flow for fire fighting.

The Chippewas of Nawash engaged Associated Engineering in 2020 to compete the detailed design and provide construction administration and warranty support for water system upgrades that include a new WTP with a below ground reservoir, a 300 metre intake into Georgian Bay, a new access road and site services (e.g., hydro, phone, internet), and upgrades and expansion of the water distribution system. The distribution system comprises 14.5 kilometres of new watermain and approximately 275 new/replaced water services. The water system improvements will eliminate the boil water advisory, address the extensive system losses, and meet present and future capacity demands. We assisted the First Nation in securing the required capital funding from Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), a total of $61 million.

To date, this is ISC’s largest capital funding commitment for water system upgrades in Ontario

Shortly after design started in January 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, eliminating in-person meetings and limiting site access, as the First Nation closed to visitors. Project Manager, Anna Comerton, tells us, “Our intent to have regular in-person design meetings, updates to Chief and Council, and Community Open Houses had to be reconsidered. To overcome this challenge, we took advantage of 3D collaboration software. We used Revizto, a cloud-based integrated collaboration platform, to conduct virtual 3D walkthroughs for the client during design review meetings. These virtual tours allowed our team to visualize the water treatment plant, providing a better understanding of the design.”

The WTP’s conventional treatment process train was confirmed through a structured Triple Bottom Line and risk evaluation process of several design concepts to identify the preferred alternative in collaboration with the client team and stakeholders. Climate change impacts were considered in the WTP design.

The selected treatment process is robust and able to manage variable water quality, which is expected to be more challenging due to heavier precipitation events, wind conditions, and higher temperatures

Additionally, the design of the heating, ventilation and cooling systems considered more extreme annual temperature fluctuations and looked for opportunities for energy efficiency

The new WTP intake into Georgian Bay is being installed via horizontal directional drilling (HDD) with the intake pipe exiting from the lake bed approximately 300 metres from shore. HDD eliminates the need for an open cut excavation to the shoreline and into the Bay, and the associated site and environmental disruption.

Equipment was pre-selected and shop drawings pre-purchased for the packaged WTP treatment system and the two pre-fabricated booster pumping stations. This allowed for the vendor specific details to be available during the detailed design stage and reduced the impact of equipment lead time, particularly in consideration of pandemic-related supply chain issues.

Associated Engineering developed separate tender packages for the new WTP and the distribution system upgrades, which were both awarded in Fall 2021. The construction works under both contracts are expected to be substantially completed in approximately August 2023 and the community’s boil water advisory lifted.

Nawash Elder and Councillor Anthony (Miptoon) Chegahno has supported the natural sciences work of our sub-consultants, LGL, in the role of community liaison. He participated in the wildlife monitoring during design and shares traditional knowledge with the team. Two community members are also supporting our team in the role of environmental monitors during construction of the WTP. 

Key personnel involved on the project include Anna Comerton, Vincent Laplante, Jeanne Zhou, Paul Shi, Alina Wu, Chad Strecker, Azad Khamforoush, Chris Lamont, and Carlos Baez.

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