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Sewer project expected to address housing crunch, protect aquifer

Penelakut Tribe Chief Earl Jack, left, and North Cowichan Mayor Tom Walker celebrate construction of the Tsussie I.R. No. 6 Community Sanitary Sewer Service, which will accommodate up to 45 additional residences and allow for more Penelakut housing. - Krista Siefken
Penelakut Tribe Chief Earl Jack, left, and North Cowichan Mayor Tom Walker celebrate construction of the Tsussie I.R. No. 6 Community Sanitary Sewer Service, which will accommodate up to 45 additional residences and allow for more Penelakut housing.
— image credit: Krista Siefken

Addressing a housing shortage and environmental concerns is the aim of a sewage-system partnership between North Cowichan and Penelakut Tribe.

The Tsussie Indian Reserve No. 6 Community Sanitary Sewer Service will connect up to 45 residences on the reserve to the Crofton Sewage Treatment Place.

Work on the $2.2.-million project is currently underway, with the system expected to be operational by the end of November.

About 22 homes will be immediately connected, which means the band will now have the infrastructure to build another 20-odd homes on the reserve.

“In our struggle to improve conditions in our communities for our people, it has been a pleasure to make great strides in Tsussie,” Penelakut Chief Earl Jack said in a previous statement.

Tsussie’s existing septic systems are failing — a danger to the health and safety of residents, as well as the adjacent aquifer.

“The Penelakut want to build more houses but they’re on top of an aquifer and not far from a river, and raw sewage is seeping up to the ground surface,” said Walker.

Jack had approached North Cowichan a few years ago in search of solutions, knowing the Crofton system was nearby, and since then the two governments have worked together.

Project consultant Elizabeth Lau of engineering firm Genivar said construction includes raising the road to just above the high-tide level — about .3 to .5 metres — which will also help prevent the flooding typical in the area between November and spring.

Driveways that no longer meet the road due to construction will be filled in as part of the project.

Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Canada provided the funds for design and construction, and the project dovetailed with North Cowichan’s plan to upgrade the treatment plant to accommodate future demands on the system.

“But this is a Penelakut project,” Walker emphasized. “North Cowichan has just enabled it. Mostly, this is about relationship-building between the First Nations and North Cowichan.”

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