SFN Chief Harley Chappell (centre) speaks at the March 2019 groundbreaking for the infrastructure work. (File photo)

Semiahmoo First Nation to have potable water ‘for sure’ by summer

Chief Harley Chappell attributes six-month delay to unforeseen circumstances

Semiahmoo First Nation members still don’t have that first connection to potable water, but their leader says the “historic” moment will happen “for sure” by summer.

“We were hoping to be done at Christmastime,” Chief Harley Chappell said Tuesday, of work that began nearly a year ago.

“That was delayed. Then we said, maybe February, March. Now we’re looking at May, June to be hooked up to municipal services. So this one-year project turned into a year-and-a-half project.

“It’s fine,” he added. “Waiting 100 years for water, we can wait an extra six months.”

The SFN has been under a boil-water advisory since 2005 (and on and off since 1996). For the advisory to be lifted, all residences on the reserve must be connected, band councillor Joanne Charles told Peace Arch News, following a groundbreaking event last year on work to install the necessary infrastructure for drinking water and fire-suppression.

Planning, design and more for the project had been underway “for years,” but took on a particular urgency following the City of White Rock’s August 2016 notice to the band that their water supply would be terminated “within… 18 months.”

The work underway now – which includes installation of more than two kilometres of pipe – began last March, after servicing agreements were signed with the City of Surrey the previous summer.

READ MORE: SFN infrastructure expected ‘in the blink of an eye’

READ MORE: ‘Lifetime’ without potable water to end

The $10 million project is funded by Indigenous Services Canada, and includes sanitary sewer.

Chappell attributed delays in its progress to winter weather, the ordering of a specific piece of pump-station equipment and “unforeseen circumstances” concerning remediation of Beach Road. Still, the work is “hustling along really well,” he said Tuesday.

“We’re close, we’re very, very close,” Chappell told PAN. “We’re waiting on one pump station and once our pump station’s complete – and that’ll probably be end of February, March, then we’re starting to do all the tie-ins to the homes.”

The delays did not impact costs, he said, explaining the potential was acknowledged in the project contract.

“We covered our bases, and were expecting some issues,” Chappell said.

“It’s the only project that’s ever happened on Semiahmoo lands. We even said… we don’t know what’s going to happen when we break this road open, because from our involvement with it, we never have.”



tholmes@peacearchnews.com

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Semiahmoo First Nation Chief Harley Chappell and then-Surrey mayor Linda Hepner sign servicing agreements to provide the band with safe drinking water and sanitary sewer connections. (File photo)

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