From left, Adams Lake Band Councillor Shelley Witzkey, Elder Lawrence Michel, Kukpi7 (Chief) Cliff Arnouse, and Councillors Elaine Jules, Gina Johnny and Brandy Jules gather for the community’s Watermain Project Ground-breaking Ceremony on Sept. 30, 2020. (Karen Everard photo)

Adams Lake First Nation to extend water system after years of tainted water

Negotiations produce three-kilometre extension of water main in Shuswap

It’s been a long time coming, but the Adams Lake band will soon be able to provide more members of its community with good, clean water.

On Sept. 30, a ground-breaking ceremony was held for the band’s Watermain Phase III Project, extending its water line about three kilometres along Kamloops-Shuswap Road.

“We’ve just signed papers and got some funding to build right to the borderline of Neskonlith and Adams Lake properties,” said Adams Lake Kukpi7 (Chief) Cliff Arnouse, explaining it’s been a long process.

He said when the previous phase was completed in the summer, it brought tears to the eyes of some elders.

“Some of the elders were crying because now they’ve got good clean drinkable water. They don’t believe it.”

Band member and project engineer with Gentech Engineering, Jerry Andrew, also spoke about the poor water quality some people have had to live with.

“We’re getting good clean water to people that have been on arsenic for how many years. You can’t even boil the water, you’re just making it more concentrated.”

Read more: Adams Lake band celebrates long-awaited, much-needed housing

Read more: Indigenous water activist Autumn Peltier speaks at UN sustainability forum

Kukpi7 Arnouse said some people were unable do dishes in it, even shower.

“We have to redo a lot of the hot water tanks, the piping and plumbing in some of the houses as the hard water just deteriorates the piping and what not. The tubs and toilets are all stained. We’re changing all those all the time…”

Arnouse said the Watermain Phase III Project was made possible through band contributions and tough negotiations with the federal government, which provided additional funding. The water system pumps water out of Little Shuswap Lake, filters and stores it in a reservoir.

The Phase III extension of the water system comes hand in hand with a new housing development the band announced a week earlier. The housing project, to be built nearly completely by band members, includes seven multi-unit lots, as well as 15 single-unit residential lots. The first six houses, which will be rent-to-own, are expected to be complete by next June or July.

In the long run, Kukpi7 Arnouse said the band will need to expand its reservoir system.

“I think this winter, I’ll be going to Ottawa to begin that process of negotiating for a bigger water reservoir system. Those are the bigger plans for the future.”
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