Just a two-hour drive from Saskatoon, the Saulteaux First Nation is a community of 1,200 band members located near Cochin and Jackfish Lake. Though they are in close proximity to a large municipality, for a decade the Saulteaux struggled to provide their community with safe drinking water.

Saulteaux – The Past: Conventional Water Treatment

Saulteaux’s water had high concentrations of ammonia. Chlorine can neutralize it, but is effective only to a point. The ammonia in the water weakened the effectiveness of the water filters, and the high use of chlorine continuously leached minerals and metals (including iron) from pipes and into the water supply, essentially undoing the work of the operators.

“As the chlorine sat in the line, [minerals and metals would leach into the water supply, and] the first person to then use the faucet would end up with brown water. Conventional technology was a no-win situation for us,” said Crystal Okemow, Saulteaux’s water quality supervisor.

Saulteaux – Today: Biological Water Treatment

In 2014, the Saulteaux community to replace their existing water treatment plant with a biological water treatment system – the Sapphire Integrated Biological Reverse Osmosis Membrane (SIBROM) – to effectively treat the community’s water supply.

There are three core treatment phases in a SIBROM biological water treatment system: biological filtration, reverse osmosis membrane filtration, and re-mineralization to optimize the pH of the treated water. At Saddle Lake, the SIBROM system feeds the biological filters directly with surface water, followed by reverse osmosis membrane treatment.

Parameter Feed Water
Quality
Bio-Filtrate
Water Quality
Membrane
Permeate
Removal using
Bio-Filters
Removal using
Membrane
Iron (mg/L) 4.085 0.001 0.001 99.97% 99.99%
Manganese (mg/L) 0.218 0.004 0.000 98.33% 100.00%
Arsenic (mg/L) 11.350 0.345 0.000 96.96% 100.00%
Phosphorus (mg/L) 0.340 0.000 0.000 100.00% 100.00%
Ammonia (mg/L) 2.170 0.050 0.000 97.70% 100.00%

Immediately after operations began in 2014, the new SIBROM system decreased the amount of chemicals used in the treatment process to produce safe drinking water. It requires only a small amount of antiscalent to be added ahead of the reverse osmosis (RO) membranes. The new SIBROM system now uses less than 10% of the amount of chlorine that was required with Saulteaux’s old water treatment plant.

“Compared to before, the end-product is unbelievable. Before, it was… you could feel it was heavy. Water now is crisp.” said Crystal. And now, she is no longer reluctant to try the water herself.

For more details, check out the in-depth Saulteaux First Nation case study on our website.