Integrated Biological Reverse Osmosis Membrane (IBROM) Treatment System

The Integrated Biological and Reverse Osmosis Membrane (IBROM) treatment process was developed at Yellow Quill First Nation from 2002 to 2004. Yellow Quill’s groundwater was considered “untreatable” according to Indian Affairs.
 
Most competing technologies cannot sustainably produce safe drinking water and some of the basic challenges include the generation of a large number of particles generated by the manganese greensand, air, oxygen treatment strategies. These particles need to be removed in the treatment process.

 

The Yellow Quill well water looks like the bottle on the left as it is coming out of the ground (100 m deep well). However, within minutes reduced iron is oxidized and small iron particles are formed generating 500 million particles per L (bottle to the right). The bottle to the left is actually biologically treated Yellow Quill water and it contains no iron and extremely low levels of particles. The biological IBROM treatment takes advantage of iron bacteria to oxidize iron preventing the formation of iron particles.

The Yellow Quill well water looks like the bottle on the left as it is coming out of the ground (100 m deep well). However, within minutes reduced iron is oxidized and small iron particles are formed generating 500 million particles per L (bottle to the right). The bottle to the left is actually biologically treated Yellow Quill water and it contains no iron and extremely low levels of particles. The biological IBROM treatment takes advantage of iron bacteria to oxidize iron preventing the formation of iron particles.

At Yellow Quill the average water production rate is 3 L/s. This can generate 1,500 million particles/L which have to be removed with conventional oxidation processes. This presents formidable problems for the granular filters used to carry this out. This includes manganese greensand and different types of other filters including sand filters or cartridge filters.

In the IBROM process no particles are generated and the incoming clear water remains clear as bacteria oxidize and retain the iron.  The IBROM process also removes a host of other compounds including reduced gases (including rotten egg smell), ammonium, arsenic, organics, and manganese. However, there are still compounds that cannot be removed by the biological IBROM treatment.  These compounds can be removed with Reverse Osmosis (RO) membranes.


The RO membranes separate water into a waste stream and a drinking water stream

The RO membranes separate water into a waste stream and a drinking water stream

What would you rather drink? The one on the left or the one on the right? We can add chlorine to the bucket on the left and it will become clear, but a chemical analysis of the water in the bucket would show that this is bad drinking water.

In contrast, the water on the right is of high quality and straight chlorination of this water will make it meet all current global regulations. All the problems that we talk about in water treatment are simply gone. No chlorinated disinfection by-products, no bacteria, no loss of chlorine residuals.

To complete the IBROM process the water is made non-corrosive with a suitable pH by allowing the water to trickle through a calcium and magnesium mineral bed. So now we not only have safe drinking water, it is also healthy.

Every IBROM plant that is constructed becomes part of a network where we aim to further improve the process. These improvements have led from the first IBROM Version 1.0, to Version 2.8 today, and Version 3.0 later in 2015. Operational costs are very low and the process is extremely reliable even on the poorest quality source water.

The IBROM process has now replaced manganese greensand in 16 First Nations communities using groundwater. The IBROM has also been installed at Saddle Lake Cree Nation to treat a very poor surface water source.


Dr. Dave Schindler, the first recipient of the Stockholm Water Prize, wrote about Saddle Lake’s source water: "I've never seen a water supply in such poor shape! The lake is covered with bluegreens, which make mats in nearshore areas. Yet, this is a drinking water supply for several thousand First Nations people! This is a story that city people need to hear and see. They cannot imagine that we have water problems of this magnitude in Alberta." - Dr. David Schindler

Dr. Dave Schindler, the first recipient of the Stockholm Water Prize, wrote about Saddle Lake’s source water: "I've never seen a water supply in such poor shape! The lake is covered with bluegreens, which make mats in nearshore areas. Yet, this is a drinking water supply for several thousand First Nations people! This is a story that city people need to hear and see. They cannot imagine that we have water problems of this magnitude in Alberta." - Dr. David Schindler

Saddle Lake water

Saddle Lake water


Sapphire Integrated Biological Reverse Osmosis Membrane (SIBROM) Treatment Systems in First Nation Communities

There are 16 full scale SIBROM water treatment plants in operation. Three more are scheduled for construction in 2017.

George Gordon First NationCommissioned December 2005
Pasqua First NationCommissioned December 2005
Dakota Dunes CasinoCommissioned 2007
Saddle Lake Cree NationCommissioned May 2011
Yellow Quill First NationCommissioned September 2011 (rebuilt after a fire)
Whitecap Dakota First NationCommissioned September 2011
Kawacatoose First NationCommissioned November 2012
Poundmaker Cree NationCommissioned September 2013
Muskeg Lake Cree NationCommissioned September 2013
Witchikan Lake First NationCommissioned April 2014
Saulteaux First Nation Commissioned June 2014
Moosomin First NationCommissioned June 2014
James Smith Cree NationCommissioned December 2014
Makwa Sahgaiehcan First NationCommissioned September 2015
Shoal Lake Cree NationCommissioned October 2015
Mistawasis First NationCommissioned July 2016
Sturgeon Lake First Nation Commissioned May 2017
Kahkewistahaw UpgradeCommissioned July 2017
Dakota Dunes UpgradeCurrently under construction

Profiles of Communities with Integrated Biological Reverse Osmosis Membrane (IBROM) Water Treatment Systems

Yellow Quill First Nation, Saskatchewan
IBROM built in 2004, rebuilt in 2008

Yellow Quill First Nation, a Saulteaux First Nations community in Saskatchewan, has approximately 2,500 registered members. Just over 800 of the members live on-reserve. Yellow Quill First Nation is about 170 km northwest of Yorkton. The Yellow Quill First Nation is a signatory of Treaty No. 4, which was signed by Chief Yellow-quill on August 24, 1876. Previously named Nut Lake Band of Saulteaux, in 1989 the Band changed its name to “Yellowquill” – one word – in honour of the founding chief. However, when their post office opened in 1993, it was named as “Yellow Quill” - two words. Yellow Quill operates Yellow Quill Health Centre, Yellow Quill Bison Ranch, Nawigizigweyas School (K-12), Yellow Quill Daycare, Yellow Quill Robert Neapetung Memorial Water Treatment Plant, Yellow Quill Store, and the Band Office, all of which are on reserve. On Treaty Day at Yellow Quill, which was held on June 10, 2011, there was a grand opening of the water treatment plant on-reserve. The new state of the art facility was named after the late Robert Neapetung for his many years spent operating the former water treatment plants that existed within Yellow Quill. The current Robert Neapetung Memorial Water Treatment Plant replaces the previous plant that was destroyed in a fire in January 2010. The plant’s capacity more than meets the needs of Yellow Quill’s residential community.


Pasqua First Nation, Saskatchewan
IBROM built in 2005

Pasqua First Nation, a Saulteaux/Cree First Nations community in Saskatchewan, has approximately 2,000 registered members. Approximately 600 of the members live on-reserve. Pasqua First Nation is about 60 km northeast of Regina and 15 km west of Fort Qu’Appelle. Pasqua First Nation is a member of the File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council which is part of Treaty 4 Territory. The reserve was surveyed and settled in 1876, two years after the signing of Treaty 4 in 1874. The band’s first chief, Chief Paskwa, was a major negotiator and signatory to Treaty Four. In June 1906 Pasqua First Nation lost 16,077 acres. The reserve’s area has decreased from 60.2 square miles to 36 square miles. The community has a fire hall and a school called Chief Paskwa Education Centre.

 

George Gordon First Nation, Saskatchewan
IBROM built in 2005

George Gordon First Nation, a First Nations community in Saskatchewan, has close to 3,000 registered members. Just over 1,000 of the members live on-reserve. George Gordon First Nation is close to Punnichy, just over 100 km north of Regina. Their territory is located on the Gordon 86 reserve, as arranged by Treaty 4.The Gordon Indian Residential School, the longest-running residential school in Canada, operated from 1876 until 1996 in George Gordon First Nation. The George Gordon First Nation has a modern medical clinic, an education centre, a computer centre, an arena, and a day care, as well as the Gordon Retail Centre and the Buffalo Ranch Project. Programs that are offered to band members include the Residential School Recovery and Wellness Centre, Brighter Futures, and Gordon Social Development. Other community infrastructure includes a pre-fab plant, fire hall, teachers’ center, gymnasium, warehouse, water treatment plant, and machine shed.


Whitecap Dakota First Nation, Saskatchewan
IBROM built in 2010

Whitecap Dakota First Nation (WDFN), a First Nations community in Saskatchewan, has just over 600 registered members. Approximately 300 of the members live on-reserve. WDFN is located 26 km south of Saskatoon. The WDFN is a non-treaty First Nation and was formerly known as Moose Woods. It was established in 1889 by an Order-in-Council. WDFN has a community health centre, education centre, an RCMP detachment, and a fire department. WDFN is also home to major recreational attractions including the Dakota Dunes Golf Links, the Dakota Dunes Casino and the Whitecap Sports Grounds and Ball Diamonds.


Dakota Dunes Casino, Saskatchewan (Whitecap Dakota First Nation)
IBROM built in 2010

The Dakota Dunes Casino is located on the historical Whitecap First Nation, 20 minutes south of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, on highway 219. It is 84,000 square feet and has over 400 employees. The casino opened in August 2007.


Saddle Lake Cree Nation, Alberta
IBROM built in 2011 (first surface water IBROM)

Saddle Lake Cree Nation, a Cree community in Alberta, has close to 10,000 registered members. Just over 6,000 of the members live on-reserve. Saddle Lake Cree Nation is located approximately 160 km northeast of Edmonton. The Nation is a signatory to Treaty 6. This First Nation’s governing structure is unusual in that it has two separate councils and chiefs governing different Indian reserves, one called the Saddle Lake Cree Nation (proper) and the other called the Whitefish Lake First Nation, often called “Whitefish (Goodfish) Lake First Nation” to avoid confusion as there is a similarly named group in Manitoba. For the purposes of the Indian Act, however, the Saddle Lake and Whitefish are one band government. Saddle Lake is the second most populous First Nation in Alberta. Saddle Lake Cree Nation has a police detachment, a fire hall, an employment & training centre, and schools.


Poundmaker Cree Nation, Saskatchewan
IBROM built in 2012

Poundmaker Cree Nation, a Cree community in Saskatchewan, has a little more than 1,200 registered members. Just over 500 of the members live on-reserve. Poundmaker Cree Nation is located approximately 60 km west of North Battleford. It is a Treaty 6 Nation and was started by the famous Cree Chief Pitikwahanapiwiyin. Famous actor Gordon Tootoosis was born in Poundmaker. Poundmaker Cree Nation has fire services, a school, and a health clinic.


Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, Saskatchewan
IBROM built in 2012

Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, a Cree community in Saskatchewan, has a little more than 1,800 registered members. Just under 400 of the members live on-reserve. Muskeg Lake Cree Nation is located approximately 130 km northwest of Saskatoon. It is a Treaty 6 Nation and was first established in 1881. Muskeg Lake Cree Nation has a health centre and a school.


Kawacatoose First Nation, Saskatchewan
IBROM built in 2012

Kawacatoose First Nation, a First Nations community in Saskatchewan, has a little more than 2,200 registered members. A little more than 1,000 of the members live on-reserve. Kawacatoose First Nation is located approximately 130 km northeast of Regina. The signing of Treaty 4 on September 3, 1874 led to the settlement of the community. Prior to this, Kawacatoose people were known as part of the Touchwood Hills people. Kawacatoose First Nation has a school.


Witchekan Lake First Nation, Saskatchewan
IBROM built in 2012

Witchekan Lake First Nation, a First Nations community in Saskatchewan, has a little less than 700 registered members. Approximately 450 of the members live on-reserve. Witchekan Lake First Nation is located approximately 120 km northeast of North Battleford. Witchekan Lake First Nation originated in 1910 and joined Treaty 6 in 1950. The community has a fire hall and a school.


Saulteaux First Nation, Saskatchewan
IBROM built in 2013

Saulteaux First Nation, a First Nations community in Saskatchewan, has a little less than 1,000 registered members. Approximately 500 of the members live on-reserve. Saulteaux First Nation is located approximately 40 km north of North Battleford. The Saulteaux band signed Treaty 6 on August 18, 1854. Facilities available on the reserve include a band hall, medical clinic, fire hall and Saulteaux Heritage School (K-9).


James Smith Cree Nation, Saskatchewan
IBROM built in 2013

James Smith Cree Nation, a Cree community in Saskatchewan, has a little more than 3,400 registered members. Approximately 1,900 of the members live on-reserve. James Smith Cree Nation is located approximately 170 km northeast of Saskatoon. James Smith Cree Nation received its name from the original chief who signed Treaty 6 in 1876 at Fort Carlton. The James Smith reserve was historically known as Fort-à-la-Corne. Situated near the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, Fort-à-la-Corne became a gathering place of many different First Nations. Later this area would become a gateway to the western regions of Canada. The Chakastapaysin First Nation later joined the people of James Smith following the dissolution of their reserve near St. Louis after the North-West Rebellion. As they are separate signatories to Treaty 6, the Chakastapaysin do have some legal status as a separate nation, but their status as a separate First Nation remains in limbo, with an inquiry looming since 1999. The people of the Peter Chapman First Nation were incorporated into the same band in 1902, but they are generally recognized as a separate band, with their legal status disputed both in court and by an ongoing commission of inquiry. Recently, the three nations who had been forced under one government by the name of James Smith decided to separate into their founding bands. The Middle Village has a health clinic and a school, and there is a hockey rink.


Moosomin First Nation, Saskatchewan
IBROM built in 2013

Moosomin First Nation, a First Nations community in Saskatchewan, has a little more than 1,300 registered members. Approximately 900 of the members live on-reserve. The majority of those who live on-reserve live approximately 32 km north of North Battleford. In 1876, representatives of the federal government and the Cree of central Saskatchewan entered into Treaty 6. Yellow Sky and his band were not present for the negotiations, but in the spring of 1881 Yellow Sky’s headman, Moosomin, signed an adhesion to the treaty. The community’s infrastructure includes a band hall, a school, and a health clinic. An RCMP detachment is located in the community.


Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation, Saskatchewan
IBROM built in 2014

Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation, a Cree community in Saskatchewan, has a little less than 1,400 registered members. Approximately 900 of the members live on-reserve. Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation is located approximately 170 km northwest of North Battleford. The members of the Makwa Lake Cree Band signed Treaty 6 on September 9, 1876 and received the Makwa Lake Reserve in 1916. The band’s infrastructure consists of a warehouse, kindergarten, school, fire hall, band hall, and arena.


Shoal Lake Cree Nation, Saskatchewan
IBROM built in 2014

Shoal Lake Cree Nation, a Cree community in Saskatchewan, has a little less than 1,000 registered members. Approximately 800 of the members live on-reserve. Shoal Lake Cree Nation is located approximately 240 km east of Prince Albert. An adhesion to Treaty 5 was signed in 1876, and a reserve surveyed in 1882. The community has a fire hall and a school. 


Mistawasis First Nation, Saskatchewan
IBROM built in 2016

Mistawasis First Nation, a First Nations community in Saskatchewan, has a little more than 2,200 registered members. A little more than 1,000 members live on-reserve. Mistawasis First Nation is located approximately 70 km west of Prince Albert. Mistawasis First Nation was named after the Band’s first chief, Chief Mistawasis, who signed Treaty 6 in 1876. The Treaty 6 signing happened at Fort Carlton where a monument was erected to recognize the great achievement of the first chief. With the signing of Treaty 6, Chief Mistawasis brought about a new way of life for the future of his people. Notable people of the Mistawasis Nation include Marion Buller, a judge in British Columbia who heads the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Mistawasis First Nation has a school and a fire hall.


Sturgeon Lake First Nation, Saskatchewan
IBROM built in 2016

Sturgeon Lake First Nation, a Cree community in Saskatchewan, has a little more than 2,000 registered members. Just over 1,500 of the members live on-reserve. Sturgeon Lake First Nation is located approximately 30 kilometres northwest of Prince Albert. The First Nation was originally known as William Twatt Band as Chief William Twatt and four headmen signed Treaty 6 at Fort Carlton and selected their reserve on August 23, 1876. The name was changed to Sturgeon Lake Band in 1963, and later changed to Sturgeon Lake First Nation. The 2001 settling of a grievance between the band and the federal government concerning a loss of timber revenue that dated back to 1906 has enabled the community to broaden its economic opportunities. The community’s infrastructure includes a school, gymnasium, fire hall, band hall, community health clinic, and a healing lodge.


Kahkewistahaw First Nation, Saskatchewan
IBROM built in 2016

Kahkewistahaw First Nation, a First Nations community in Saskatchewan, has a little more than 1,700 registered members. Approximately 400 of the members live on-reserve. Kahkewistahaw First Nation is located approximately 160 km east of Regina. The reserve originated from the signing of Treaty 4 in September 15, 1874 by Chief Kakewistohow. The community has a school and a fire hall.


Whitecap Dakota #3
IBROM under construction in 2017

Please see previous description of Whitecap Dakota First Nation.


Sandy Lake, Alberta
IBROM under construction in 2017

Sandy Lake, a hamlet in Alberta, has a population of approximately 300 people. The hamlet is located approximately 130 km north of Athabasca. Sandy Lake is also known as Pelican Mountain. Sandy Lake offers various playgrounds, a Skate Park, a Community Outreach Center with an outdoor volleyball court and outdoor rink, a boat launch, and a swimming area with fishing dock.