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Independent First Nations Alliance

Water HUB Project

1.0             INTRODUCTION

1.1              Background Information

The Walkerton water crisis has brought to the forefront the need to have competent and fully certified operators working in First Nations’ water treatment plants.  To this end, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) and First Nations communities are working together on a program to bridge the certification gap that currently exists.  The program is referred to as the Safe Water Operations Program (SWOP).   In brief, the program provides funding for an Overall Responsible Operator (ORO), as defined by the Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office (OWWCO) to oversee the operations of water treatment plants in First Nations communities, until such time, as First Nations operators attain the appropriate certification level.  This program was intended to follow through on the Federal Government's announcement to have all First Nations water treatment facilities operated by appropriately certified operators.

In May 2014, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) announced that certain provisions of the First Nation Water and Wastewater Action Plan (FNWWAP) would be discontinued beginning April 1, 2015.  Of particular concern to the Chiefs was the removal of the support services that had been delivered under the Safe Water Operations Program (SWOP).

Independent First Nations Alliance provides advisory services to 5 remote First Nation communities in Northwestern Ontario. One of the services that the TC provides to its member communities is assistance with the operations and maintenance of their Water Treatment and Distribution infrastructure.   In addition, each First Nation has been provided with Water/Wastewater Training dollars to assist the First Nation operators to attain their certification to operate their facilities.

These concerns prompted the Chiefs to direct the Tribal Council to investigate alternative service delivery solutions based on the options provided within the notice from INAC.  The Tribal Council Chiefs, directed the Tribal Council to prepare a proposal to INAC to retain qualified individuals.

Over the past several years, there has been considerable progress in training and certifying First Nations water operators.  Nonetheless, over that period several challenges to having properly certified operators in all communities have become apparent:

  • ·         The education requirements for certified water operators are significant.  In smaller communities this means that the pool of potential candidates to fill this position when vacant is limited;
  • ·         It takes time to train operators and have them obtain the required experience to become certified.  Consequently, when an operator decides to leave his or her position, it takes at least a year if not longer to get a new person certified;
  • ·         In many on and off-reserve communities water plants do not demand a full-time person to operate them.  Thus, it is not feasible to have a large enough pool of qualified operators in each community able to take over in case of sickness, holidays, or resignation.


1.2              Proposal Goals and General Description

The goals of our proposal are fourfold:

1.      To ensure the health and safety of on-reserve residents through the provision of safe water obtained from a communal water system;

2.      To achieve a level of supply, treatment and distribution water quality and operating performance that is consistent with current Ontario Water Standards;

3.      To support First Nations capacity development in water and wastewater infrastructure maintenance and operations;

4.      To establish a Maintenance Management Plan, for the water and wastewater assets to ensure that these operate cost effectively through the planned life expectancy of the asset.

The following details the proposal for a centralized water and wastewater Hub. The specialized services will be staffed by qualified personnel and based out of Sioux Lookout, Ontario. 

1.3              Project Location and Description of Facilities

APPENDIX A and B contains basic information for each facility where ORO services will be provided.

The communities included in this proposal are:

  • ·         Pikangikum First Nation
  • ·         Muskrat Dam First Nation
  • ·         Lac Seul Lake First Nation
  • ·         Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation
  • ·         Whitesand Nation

1.4              Expansion of the Proposal to Include Other Communities or Tribal Council

Independent First Nations Alliance is receptive of expanding the hub to include other nearby First Nations or Tribal Council.

Independent First Nations Alliance will retain legal counsel to develop a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding between IFNA and any interested First Nation so that outcomes are clearly outlined and goals of the First Nations are going to be met.  The costs associated with the development of the MOU will be in addition to this proposal and the costs to retain other individuals for an ORO.



2.1              GENERAL

The objectives and deliverables intended by the formation of the HUB include but are not limited to the following:

  • ·         Utilize adequately certified operational personnel (Class II or greater) to provide operational oversight of the water and wastewater facilities;
  • ·         Limit the risk to all stakeholders by means of a comprehensive insurance package;
  • ·         Implement a training program to fast track the certification of the community operators with the goal to have these operators at Certification OIT (Entry Level) by the end of year 1 of the program;
  • ·         Develop local operator knowledge and skill through on-site training with the goal of their obtaining certification to a level appropriate to the plant classification;
  • ·         Provide bulk purchasing services as a cost savings measure;
  • ·         Maintain an inventory of critical spare parts for these communities;
  • ·         Liaise daily with the local operators to ensure assigned tasks are being accomplished;
  • ·         Meet monthly with community leadership to update them on program progress;
  • ·         Meet annually with community leadership to assist with the preparation of realistic annual O&M budgets;
  • ·         Monitor and interpret water quality data from remote monitoring equipment (Triton and SCADA systems).  Based on this interpretation give prompt, informed direction to the local operational personnel to correct problems;
  • ·         Develop a maintenance management and a work plan for each operator and facility;
  • ·         Ensure comprehensive records of water quality samples and facility operational parameters are being maintained;
  • ·         Organize each community to share human resources for planned maintenance activities;
  • ·         Deliver multiple support services (ORO, CRTP);
  • ·         Expand service delivery to include Wastewater Treatment facilities.
  • ·         Expand service delivery to include water distribution and wastewater collection
  • ·         Expand service delivery to include trucked water distribution systems
  • ·         Participate in the development of an Emergency Response Plan for water supply and treatment system operation.
  • ·         Provide a 24-hour/7-day-a-week technical assistance telephone Hot Line (toll free) staffed by qualified personnel that can be accessed by the First Nations Operators;
  • ·         Ongoing support for each facility, operator and O&M manager to ensure that funding is effectively utilized and future capital projects are identified.
  • ·         Develop a business continuity plan.



3.0             PROJECT TEAM

The Project Team will consist of O&M managers from each First Nations, the Tribal Council, ORO and INAC.  Other Project Team members can be brought in as required by the Tribal Council.  INAC shall be advised of all project meetings and recommendations, and will be available to participate in meetings and/or provide input on an as required basis. 

3.1              Program Manager

The program manager will be responsible to coordinate all activities associating with this project.  The program manager will liaise closely with Chief and Council and O&M managers from each First Nation to ensure that all deliverable are being met.  The person will also prepare and develop the deliverables as outlined in Section 4.1 and .4.

IFNA will assign Kevin A. Sandberg for this role, as he has over 10 years of experience in water and wastewater design, operation and maintenance.

The program manager would provide back up to the water and wastewater during holidays or sick days.

The program manager will be tasked to oversee the implementation of the program as soon as the project has been approved by INAC.  He will need to recruited a qualified individual that will meet the needs of the program and each First Nation.

It is important that a program manager be included in the proposal, as Kevin A. Sandberg is very familiar with each facility and he would be required to coordinate all the activities required to roll out the program.

3.2              Water and Wastewater Operator (ORO)

The water and wastewater operator will provide oversight for each of the First Nation facilities.  The person assigned to this role will be required to possess a minimum of Class 2 water treatment and Class 1 wastewater treatment.

The water and wastewater operator will complete the duties and assignments as outlined in Section 4.1 and 4.2.  The person will also work closely with the program manager to gather information related to the deliverables of Section 4.4.

The water and wastewater will be hired upon approval of this project.


4.0             SCOPE OF SERVICES

The scope of services required under this proposal will include the following:

4.1              Initial Services

4.1.1        Initial Condition Survey

The ORO will perform a detailed Initial Condition Survey of the water supply system, water treatment facility, wastewater treatment system and wastewater collection system.  The intent of the Initial Condition Survey is to document the state of the facilities and set a baseline for future evaluations of ongoing operations and maintenance programs along with operator training.

The ORO will meet to discuss the deficiencies, prioritize and implement fixes.  Minor repairs can be dealt with through the First Nation and the local operators using existing O&M budgets.  The ORO will be work with the FN operators to producing the best safe water possible with the existing equipment while deficiencies are addressed.  The ORO must report any health and safety issues immediately to the Chief and Council during this investigation. 

The survey will be performed on the following basis:

  • ·         The overall assessment will be limited to visual inspections including digital photos and no equipment will be disassembled except as noted below;
  • ·         An external visual inspection above ground civil and structural asset and vessels;
  • ·         Inspection of the electrical motor control centers and panels by the electrical specialists;
  • ·         Confirmation of the operational status of plant instrumentation, alarms, monitoring equipment and SCADA system;
  • ·         Review all background information including but not limited to operational and maintenance record;
  • ·         Hold interviews with relevant staff to determine known or suspected problems with system operations, to confirm operational performance/maintenance procedures and to identify any potential maintenance problems that need to be addressed;
  • ·         For all equipment conditions, the ORO will apply a priority rating (high, medium or low) based on industry best practices and recommended corrective action that will allow the First Nation to evaluate the nature of the condition and prioritize any further actions.

4.2              Basic Services

4.2.1        Supervisory Duties – General Overview

The duties (hands-on) to be performed include but are not limited to the following:

  • ·         Instruct the on-site operator(s) in the proper operation of their water treatment plant(s) using equipment manuals, Operation Procedures Manuals, Maintenance Management System and pertinent sections of the current Ontario Water Regulations as a guideline;
  • ·         Instruct and assist the First Nation Operators in the development of a Training Plan to receive and/or maintain proper certification, and assist the First Nation Operators to obtain Certification.
  • ·         Work with the First Nations Operator(s) to develop and prioritize his/her duties and work schedules;
  • ·         Instruct the First Nations Operator(s) on how to troubleshoot mechanical/electrical and safety equipment;
  • ·         Assist in training the First Nations Operator in use of the SCADA or remote monitoring systems package at the facilities (if available);
  • ·         Provide operational (including water sampling and testing) and process training during on-site visits and document the improvements made to the operations of the treatment facility(s);
  • ·         Assist in flushing and maintaining the water distribution system, including hydrants, valves and boxes.  Co-ordinate all activities with each First Nation Fire Chief. Record required repairs on maintenance records;
  • ·         Ensure implementation of a Maintenance Management System;
  • ·         Submit monthly and annual operational status reports described in this document;
  • ·         Ensure Water Treatment Plant process optimization;
  • ·         Assist with taking immediate action to rectify all situations that may lead (or has lead) to a Drinking Water Advisory;
  • ·         Instruct/supervise the operator(s) at the facility(s) in respect to:

o   entry into confined spaces;

o   testing of the facility’s alarms;

o   testing of the facility’s back up power supply;

o   testing of pumping, disinfection and filtration equipment, testing automated controls and monitoring devices;

o   calibration of testing equipment, flow meters, etc;

o   address any situation that comes to the ORO’s attention relating to the day-to-day operation and maintenance of the facility(s) that may cause the facility to be out of compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and authorizations.

4.2.2        Data Collection

The ORO will work with the First Nation operators ensure that the following data is collected:

1.      Primary Disinfection

Testing and monitoring will be conducted to determine if the primary disinfection contact time requirements have been met on a daily basis.

2.      Turbidity

Testing and turbidity monitoring will be conducted in accordance with Provincial Regulations and may include the following: 

(a)               Surface water or groundwater source under direct influence of surface water (GUDI)

o   one raw water sample per day;

o   one sample at each filter effluent line on a daily basis (use of results from continuous monitoring equipment at each filter effluent line is preferred);

o   one sample upon entering the distribution system per day;

o   three samples at different locations throughout the distribution system

(b)               Groundwater – one raw water sample per month

3.      Chlorine residual

Free chlorine will be tested daily i) in the reservoir, ii) upon entering the distribution system and iii) at the extremities of the distribution system, all in accordance with Provincial Regulations.

4.      Bacteriological testing

Bacteriological testing for E. coli, and total coliforms will be conducted on one raw water sample per week (for Surface Water) or one raw water sample per well per week (for Groundwater), and one treated water (entering distribution system) sample per week, and eight distribution system samples per month (with at least one in each week). Analyses of samples for free chlorine residual are also to be undertaken at the same location (immediately after sampling for bacteriological testing) using appropriate analytical equipment and field kits, where chlorination is used.

However, if weekly Health Canada distribution system test results for bacteria are reliably delivered weekly to the First Nations Operator(s), then the First Nations Operator(s) may use the Health Canada test results in lieu of conducting required weekly tests for bacteria on water samples collected from the distribution system.

5.      Trihalomethanes (THMs)

If chlorination is practiced then under the guidance of the ORO (if not completed by Health Canada), quarterly samples will be taken at the point in the distribution system with the highest potential THM levels, and tested by a laboratory for Total Trihalomethanes, and bromodichloromethane.

6.      Operational process parameters

Operational process parameters will be tested/recorded in accordance with the Maintenance Management System and/or Operation Procedures Manual. This shall include, but not be limited to the following:

o   daily water volume for raw water and treated water flows;

o   daily water volume for backwash water flows;

o   daily water volume for truckfill water flows, where applicable;

o   chemical dosages, total amounts of chemicals used daily;

o   daily raw and treated water colour;

o   daily raw and treated water pH;

o   daily raw and treated water temperature;

o   daily equipment run times;

o   Data collected should also include such other data relating to health and safety, repairs, calibration and maintenance of the facility(s).

7.      Triton

Utilize the Triton system by AUG Signals to monitor water quality.

General Requirements:

For samples sent to laboratories, operators will use procedures (on the lab chain of custody form) that facilitate the electronic data transfer of results to the Health Canada / INAC account on the Watertrax data management service. The specific procedure, and a list of sampling point names, and corresponding Watertrax “sampling point locators” will be provided to the operators.

The First Nations Operator(s) will keep an up-to-date register in which the dates and results of all required operational and water quality testing are recorded along with the name of the person who conducted the testing and/or collected the water sample. The data collected for the register must be kept for a minimum of five years.

In the absence of appropriate onsite testing equipment, analyses of samples should be conducted by an accredited laboratory (if not completed by Health Canada).

4.2.3        Site Visits

The ORO will visit the community on an as-needed basis to assist the operators with the operation, maintenance and reporting.

The ORO site visits will be a minimum of 3 days per visit for the first 3 months, once the ORO is familiar with the First Nations Operator(s) and the facilities, the ORO site visit duration and frequency will be reduced.  The ORO will utilize the existing SCADA system, Triton monitoring system and First Nations Operator(s) weekly log entries to monitor the condition of the facility.

4.2.4        Reporting/Performance

For the purpose of this section, the First Nations will be considered as a small municipality, hence performance and reporting requirements of Ontario Regulation 170/03 apply.  The ORO will:

  • ·         Review any data collected for completeness and advise the Project Team of any deficiencies in data.  The ORO shall collate and prepare summaries of the data collected for inclusion in the monthly and annual reports;
  • ·         Prepare and submit a monthly status reports. The intent of the monthly status report is to document the performance of the operation of the water treatment system and the performance of the First Nations Operator(s);
  • ·         Prepare and submit an annual report on the performance of the facility(s) to indicate its level of compliance with applicable legislation and regulations;
  • ·         Meet with the operators and the First Nation O&M Manager after each site visit and before leaving (monthly) to report on the operations of the facility(s);
  • ·         Prepare and submit to the Project Team annually and immediately after the Initial Condition Survey, a list of required capital equipment repairs, equipment purchases and specialty contracted services necessary to properly operate and maintain the facilities.  The ORO will develop estimated costs and prioritize the proposed expenditures.  This is also part of the budgeting process;
  • ·         Report any water quality exceedences of the standards to the First Nations Chief and Council, Health Canada’s Environmental Health Officer (EHOs) and the Project Team immediately.

4.2.5        Time Recording

The ORO will maintain a written record of the time that is actually devoted to providing the services and will provide a monthly summary.

4.2.6        O&M Budget Review

The ORO will meet quarterly with the First Nations Operator(s), the Maintenance Manager and the Band Administrator to review budgets; specifically treatment chemicals and other purchase requirements in order that budget shortages are avoided.

4.2.7        24 Hour/7 Day-a-Week Hot Line

The ORO will be prepared to assist to any potential calls related to issues at the First Nation facilities using a 24-hour/7-day-a-week Hot Line (toll free).  The facility alarm system will be set up to phone the ORO immediately after it calls the First Nations Operator(s).

The ORO will maintain a log with the information for each call in a timely fashion in a logbook of the name of the First Nation and the person making the call, the nature of the call and the ORO’s response and any subsequent actions taken by the ORO. All logged service records shall be included in the annual report to be submitted to the First Nation for review.

4.2.8        Training

The ORO will undertake an interview with the First Nations Operator(s) to establish their qualifications and, in conjunction with the Project Team, identify training requirements.  The ORO will assist in the development of an individual training plan for each operator through to their achieving certification appropriate to their facility’s classification. The ORO will consider the transfer of skills to local operators as a critical element of the contract.

Training by the ORO will be in the community and at the water treatment plant, consisting of hands on, on-the-job training and mentoring.  The ORO’s basic responsibility lies in ensuring the operator receives the opportunity (scheduling) and backing to attend training programs conducted by outside agencies and to review the operators in-plant performance quarterly and after such formal training to identify areas of improvements.  The First Nations Operator(s) education level and ability to succeed in such training must be considered.

4.3              Capital Upgrades

Once the Initial Condition Survey has been completed and depending on the findings, the ORO will provide advice from an operational perspective in the implementation of the upgrades.   This work requires the ORO to review the proposed upgrades and bring to the attention of the First Nation, proposed changes that may compromise the effectiveness in the operation of the plant.  The ORO is also required to assist in the co-ordination of work in the plant while still maintaining safe, potable water. 

The ORO, TC and First Nation will be working closely with INAC to address issues regarding capital upgrades.

4.4              Other Services

It is the intent that the Operation Procedures Manual, Remote Monitoring and Emergency Response Plans (described below) will be in place within 6 months from the start of this proposal.

4.4.1        Annual Instrument Calibration and Certification

The ORO will coordinate the services of a contractor to calibrate and certify all the online instruments located in each facility including wastewater lift stations.  The contractor will also ensure that the equipment are properly linked to the SCADA system and that the instruments and analysers are displaying the correct values.  The contractor is to verify all electrical panels and motors to ensure that they are operating within parameters.  The qualified electrician will review all the connections with a thermal imaging camera.

4.4.2        Operation Procedures Manuals

The ORO will review any existing Operation Procedures Manual to determine their adequacy, if one does not exist, the ORO will develop an operating budget to operate the First Nations water and fire protection infrastructure in an optimal mode and a scheduled maintenance regime to cover all aspects of water treatment plant, distribution and fire protection system maintenance.

4.4.3        Preventative Maintenance Program

The ORO will review and document all the equipment and systems being utilized at each facility.  The ORO will prepare a database to track


4.4.4        Remote Monitoring

The ORO will monitor the facility daily using remote access software/hardware to reduce the requirement to travel frequently to the communities.

4.4.5        Emergency Response Plan

The ORO will participate with the First Nation in the development of an Emergency Response Plan (ERP) which is intended to develop procedures to minimize the impact on the delivery of safe water to residents in the event of emergency situations (prolonged power outage, fire at the plant, Boil Water Advisory, etc.).

4.4.6        Business Continuity Plan

The ORO will participate with the First Nation in the development of an Business Continuity Plan (BCP) which is intended to identify all the risks associated with the operation and maintenance of the facility.  The risks will then be used to create a financial analysis for the operational costs of the facility.