Penticton Indian Band councillors and administration staff and a representative for the federal government watch as Chief Chad Eneas (left) and Westhills Aggregates general manager Gregor Burton take a symbolic first dig at the ground for a groundbreaking ceremony for a $3-million waterline replacement project. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

Penticton Indian Band’s waterline project to improve health issues: chief

Construction set to begin within 2 weeks on decades-old line with asbestos in areas of the system

Replacement of a decades-old waterline on the Penticton Indian Band reserve will begin within a couple of weeks, modernizing a system that has had issues with asbestos and E. coli.

“Over the last 30 years, there’s been a number of projects to provide clean, safe drinking water for our members,” Chief Chad Eneas said.

PIB chief and council awarded a $3-million contract, funded in full by the federal government, to PIB-run Westhills Aggregates, with a ceremonial contract signing and groundbreaking Tuesday morning.

Related: Penticton Indian Band holding groundbreaking for waterline project

“Sixty-five per cent of our employees are members of the PIB community, and it’s really an honour for them to come in and work and better their community and provide this important infrastructure,” said Gregor Burton, Westhills Aggregates general manager.

The current project won’t replace the entire system, but will replace the water system in the reserve’s upper and lower villages’ water lines. Currently, the waterline has a variety of qualities in different areas, Eneas said.

“Over the years, what we were provided, the information, is that some of the pipe actually has asbestos in it, and some improper tie-ins that just totally create challenges when repairs are needed or if there’s a break in the line, so it definitely causes a health and safety concern for us,” he said.

“We’ve also received reports of some E. coli contamination as a result of the breaks, or the improper tie-ins to the line, so definitely there were some concerns.”

Related: Penticton Indian Band hopes B.C. housing funds will bring members home

Coun. Joan Phillip added that the replacement will be important to the reserve because the current waterline did not have digital mapping for the locations of the pipes, the new system will

“I’m just pleased at this time that we’re also able to engage our natural resources department and a couple of staff will be trained in GIS (geographic information system) and GPS mapping of this infrastructure, because in prior years, sometimes it was a hit and miss. We weren’t sure where the line was because it wasn’t digitized,” Phillip said.

“This is really going to provide enhanced response to any emergencies related to the waterline itself with the mapping of this project,” Eneas added.

Tabitha Eneas, housing manager for the PIB, said the original waterline were built several decades ago.

“It’s going back to ’50s, ’60s kind of thing, when some of our first homes were built out here, so they’re quite significantly old,” she said.

The band has other infrastructure needs, Chief Eneas said, with some talks in the works other potential projects, but none has yet come to a point of seeing any deals brokered. That includes “a number of projects” submitted to the federal government, but the annual budget for the band is limited, he said.

“It has been a priority, and it will continue to be a priority to get housing for our members.”

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

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Penticton Indian Band councillors and Chief Chad Eneas (right) listen in as Westhills Aggregates general manager Gregor Burton speaks on the newly signed $3-million deal to replace a significant portion of the reserve’s waterline. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

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