Wabigoon Lake recently won its third award for the best tasting water in northwestern Ontario.
“That was definitely something,” said Marcel Shabaquay, Wabigoon Lake’s water plant operator.
“Phil Tangie and a couple of other tribal council (representatives) were sitting around with me just kind of waiting for them to (choose the winners) — they went from third, then second, and we were still there, Wabigoon Lake, and sure enough they said: ‘The first place winner is Wabigoon Lake First Nation.’”
Wabigoon Lake won the 2013 Water Taste Challenge on Oct. 25 at the North Western Ontario Water and Wastewater Conference while Pays Plat finished second. Other communities in the running included Thunder Bay and Dryden.
The Grand Council Treaty #3 community also won the Water Taste Challenge last year and the Mandamin Cup for best water in the north at the Aboriginal Water and Wastewater Association of Ontario’s 18th Annual Conference and AGM this past March.
After winning two years in a row, Shabaquay said the Water Taste Challenge officials asked him questions about his treatment plant and the winning water.
“They were asking questions about what type of water treatment plant we have and did we do anything special to the water before the conference,” said Shabaquay, who holds a Class 1 water treatment certificate from Bimose’s NTPF water training program. “There’s nothing that we do differently for the water when I take it in (for the Water Taste Challenge). I just grab it right out of the tap like how it says to do on the form. It says just grab four litres of water and keep it chilled until you enter it in.”
Shabaquay said the community was surprised to learn they had won the Water Taste Challenge again.
“We figured after winning the one, we probably wouldn’t win again this year,” Shabaquay said. “This is the fourth year that we were invited to the conference.”
Shabaquay said the community’s Facebook page “was lighting up” after the award was announced and the community’s school has since asked for another tour of the water treatment plant.
“The students are starting to hear that we have real good tasting water and that we have won these awards, so they are interested in the water treatment plant now,” Shabaquay said.
Shabaquay credits the water treatment process for the award-winning water.
“It has something to do with the temperature too,” Shabaquay said. “It’s a lot colder water that we’re getting here than in other places.”
Shabaquay said the water intake is “quite a bit out there” in Wabigoon Lake, which is the same lake that Dryden draws its water from.
“We’ve got lots of colour (in the lake water),” Shabaquay said. “If you ever came swimming and put your goggles on, you wouldn’t be able to see nothing. There is definitely lots of organics in the water to make it that weak tea colour.”
Shabaquay said the water is judged on chlorine, clarity and taste.
“The chlorine residual was 1.20 so it wasn’t as high as it was four years ago when I handed in a sample for the taste test,” Shabaquay said. “We test it weekly. We do our same routine daily.”
Dalles First Nation won the Water Taste Challenge in 2011.
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