Nova Scotia

Eskasoni to provide bottled water for Potlotek First Nation

First Nations communities are stepping in to assist Potlotek as it struggles with its water emergency.

Chapel Island community continues to struggle with discoloured, smelly water

A resident of Potlotek First Nation, N.S., unloads bottled water from a delivery truck. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

First Nations communities are stepping in to assist Potlotek as it struggles with its water emergency.

Eskasoni First Nation is delivering 20,000 litres of water to the Chapel Island band. Members discovered thick, black liquid coming out their taps Tuesday.

"It's part of being in a Mi'kmaq community. We always help each other, we try to provide support and everything," said Eskasoni spokesman George Paul.

'We need lots of water'

The Aboriginal Atlantic Policy Congress is meeting this week in Halifax and the dirty water situation in Potlotek was at the top of their list of concerns. 

Paul said Eskasoni Chief Leroy Denny asked, "What can we do right now to help you guys?" and the answer from Potlotek was "we need water, we need lots of water."

The water being provided by Eskasoni will consist of 26 pallets of four-litre jugs.

"We're a close-knit community. I have family there. A lot of people have family there," said Paul. 

Health Canada insists water is OK

Potlotek is telling its members not to drink or cook with the water due to high levels of iron and manganese even though Health Canada says those mineral levels will not have an impact on health.

It does acknowledge they can affect the colour, taste and odour of the water.
The lack of clean water at Potlotek First Nation, N.S., is having a huge impact on members' lives. Eskasoni First Nation is supplying 20,000 litres of water Friday. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

Potlotek Chief Wilbert Marshall says officials from Health Canada and Indigenous and Northern Affairs as well as a group of engineers are scheduled to come to the First Nations community Oct. 4.

Band member Bernadette Marshall she'd like to see an environmental study completed. 

People are angry

"I would like to see people being tested on how much mineral count they have in their bodies. You know, everybody needs minerals in their body, but how much are we overdosed with," said Marshall. 

She said funding from Indigenous and Northern Affairs will allow members to shower in the nearby community of St. Peter's soon but people are angry. 

"We've always believed what the government said, that it's safe drinking water. Now we're told [by the band] that it's not safe," said Marshall.

"That you can't even cook with it anymore, you can't bathe in it anymore, so we need help here. We're in desperate need for help."

'We need a long-term fix'

Premier Stephen McNeil said his government is in discussions with federal ministers to see what can be done. 

"No one in this day and age should be in that position. We recognize that," said McNeil.

"We need a long-term fix and there's a substantial amount of work that will be required."