Samson Cree Nation celebrated its new waste transfer station being close to completion with a smudge ceremony, official ribbon cutting and a community barbecue Aug. 21.
According to Chief Vernon Saddleback, the facility is “98 per cent” operational and will hopefully be up and running soon.
The project to bring a properly functioning waste transfer station to Samson has been two years in the making.
The ribbon cutting was followed by a tour of the facility, located on Three Mile Road, and then a barbecue in front of the Peace Hills Trust.
The band worked with Minister of Indigenous Services Canada Seamus O’Regan as well as Samson’s Community Capital Planning Committee to bring the project to fruition.
“I’m almost speechless because of the amount of people we have to thank,” said Saddleback.
“Every community in Canada lives on Mother Earth and has to figure out how to dispose of its waste.”
A release dated Aug. 21 from Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) stated, “The Government of Canada is committed to working in partnership with First Nations and provincial, territorial and municipal partners to improve essential physical infrastructure and environmental well-being in First Nations communities.”
The federal government funded approximately $5.36 million for the project.
The new site will allow the band members to dispose of waste in a safe manner without having to travel long distances is designed to separate materials quickly and efficiently, says the release.
Scrap metal and recyclables will be sorted out from other garbage, which will then be compacted before being transported out.
“The facility will also support increased environmental sustainability and contribute to a healthier and cleaner community for generations to come.”
“I congratulate Chief Saddleback, the Council and people of Samson Cree Nation on their dedication to improving infrastructure in their community,” said O’Regan in the release.
“It is a testament to the hard work and dedication of this Treaty 6 Nation and a tangible example of their commitment to improving the environmental health of their people.”
ISC introduced the First Nation Solid Waste Management Initiative in January, 2016. This was the first time that specific funding was dedicated to First Nation solid waste management in Canada.
The initiative includes a more holistic approach to solid waste management and sustainability.
The existing dump is right across from the new facility and Saddleback called it “very unsightly.”
Just the night before a “massive fire” had to be put out at the dump by the Maskwacis Fire Department.
Burn permits aren’t required, and sometimes people will burn their waste at the dump or people will set fires, according to Saddleback.
Saddleback says they’ve received many complaints about the fires from local families who had concerns about potentially toxic fumes.
‘That’s the problem with how we currently do it — it leaves it open for those actions to happen.”
The new facility will be supervised at all times and hazardous materials will be sorted out so they don’t end up in the dump.
Construction of the waste transfer site has also created jobs for local nation members who received employment and training opportunities during the build.
The site had been flat and was built up before construction began last year.
Many of the metal bins used in rural areas of Maskwacis were constructed by Four Nations Welding, a completely First Nation owned and operated company located in Maskwacis.
There are other community improvements Saddleback hopes to see in the future, as well.
The highest priority will be upgrading the nation’s waste water management system.
Saddleback says the nation’s roads and ditches are also in need of recovery, as most in the area are over 30 years old and some have collapsed because of lack of water control over time.
Some have been repaired, but more infrastructure work is needed as all the roads need to be replaced, he says.
There is also a mold problem in homes that are 25 to 35 years old, he says.
Saddleback says with the new waste transfer site and these other improvements they’re really changing their community, the attitudes of their people and making a safer community.
“This new waste transfer site is just evidence of that change.”