Nova Scotia

Potlotek First Nation to get new water system to fix dirty, discoloured water

The small Cape Breton First Nation of Potlotek will receive a new, multimillion-dollar water system, according to the regional director general for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada for the Atlantic provinces.

Government officials will visit community on Tuesday

Potlotek First Nation, where residents have been complaining about dirty and discoloured water, will replace its failing water system. (CBC)

The small Cape Breton First Nation of Potlotek will receive a new, multimillion-dollar water system, according to the regional director general for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada for the Atlantic provinces.

The people of Potlotek, near St. Peters, have suffered through ongoing problems with the reserve's water system. 

Lately, tap water has been described as thick and black, although Health Canada has said it is safe to drink. The water is tested several times a day.

"There's a seasonal rise in the minerals of iron and manganese that cause the water to smell unpleasant and look dirty," said Chris McDonnell, the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada regional director. 

'Not fit'

Despite assurances of safety, residents have been refusing to use the water, with many describing it as "really gross," "disgusting" and "not fit."

Potlotek's drinking water comes from an open source, and is stored and treated in a tower before distribution.

"Since the situation arose, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada has been providing bottled water and at the chief's request, we've increased the quantity," said McDonnell.

Bulk quantity water is also being provided for household cleaning and portable shower facilities, and McDonnell said it is hoped portable laundry facilities will also be available by Tuesday.

Planning underway

McDonnell says a committee has already been struck to plan the new water system.

"It involves the community, community water treatment plant operators, engineers from Indigenous and Northern Affairs and a private sector company is involved."

The committee will meet in Potlotek on Tuesday to begin discussion on the design of the new water system and whether it will rely on dug wells or lake water.

It could take several years for the new system to be completed, but McDonnell said a discussion is already underway to deal with the discoloured and foul-smelling water in the current system.

"The working group is actually looking at the possibility of quickly adding a limestone bed treatment part to the existing system, which will decrease the manganese levels," said McDonnell.

With files from Tom Murphy

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