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Delivering an award-winning $33-million water treatment plant with locally sourced labour

The plant provides safe water to over 100 buildings and continues to promote independence for small business owners in the community.

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For more than 20 years, residents at Shoal Lake #40 First Nation, located near the border between Manitoba and Ontario, have been living under a series of long-term drinking water advisories.

Delivering an award-winning $33-million water treatment plant with locally sourced labour

The community's aging pump houses didn't meet federal standards or provincial regulations for safe water distribution, so many relied on bottled water instead.

The First Nation conducted feasibility studies to find a reliable, efficient and cost-effective solution that would provide residents with longterm access to safe drinking water. Construction of an access road to the reserve enabled them to better examine the true costs associated with building and managing a water treatment plant. The plan also included a low-level pumping station and lake intake; diesel backup electrification system; fire hydrants; a reinforced concrete reservoir; a water distribution network; and fire protection sprinklers for the existing school, community centre and arena buildings. In collaboration with Indigenous Services Canada, Shoal Lake #40 First Nation selected Colliers Project Leaders to manage the delivery of the treatment plant and related assets.

We fostered a collaborative working relationship with the community's Chief and Council to address specific concerns. The project was unique in a number of ways: the tendering process required our team to employ at least 30% First Nations labour, while solving health and safety, supply chain, and schedule challenges amidst the pandemic.

The plant was built on time and on budget and ultimately involved 53% First Nations labour. It now provides safe water to over 100 buildings with the flexibility to grow, and continues to promote independence for small business owners in the community. In fact, it earned a 2022 Project of the Year Award from the Ontario Public Works Association in part for having provided opportunities for local procurement and employment.

We submitted an evaluation report to Indigenous Services Canada, recommending a similar procurement model be used for more federally funded Indigenous capital projects moving forward.

"Collaborating on meaningful projects that improve the health and wellbeing of First Nations communities is my passion. I'd like to see First Nations being granted more opportunities to use local labour and equipment, and not have to fight as much for work that's happening right in their backyard."

Sean Petrus I Senior Project Manager, Colliers Project Leaders