First Nations chief hires European company to help tackle unsafe water
Published Wednesday, September 13, 2017 6:46PM EDT
A First Nations chief in Cape Breton has taken matters into his own hands when it comes to his community’s bad drinking water and hired a foreign company to help solve the crisis.
Chief Wilbert Marshall of Polotek First Nation has brought in Brewal Ireland Ltd. to help find a solution to the high levels of manganese and iron in the community’s water that has made it unsafe to drink, bathe and even wash clothes in.
“We’re trying to come up with a temporary solution for now, but long-term something’s got to be done,” Marshall told CTV Atlantic.
“I don’t know what to do any more. We’re trying our best.”
A recent report from Health Canada shows both concentrations of manganese and iron in the water supply are above the aesthetic objectives for Canadian drinking water quality.
Health Canada is asking the people of Potlotek First Nation not to drink, bathe or even wash their clothes in the water. Temporary shower stations and laundry facilities have been set up in the community.
With no quick fix on the horizon, Brewal Ireland Ltd. has set up its own system to test the water to try to find a solution.
“In this situation we're hoping for 70, 80 per cent reduction in a very high level of manganese and iron, that's just for this test rig,” said Les Walsh of Brewal Ireland Ltd. “When we put the full unit here we will be able to take it down to Health Canada standards.”
This is the second time in a year Polotek First Nation has had to halt use of their tap water. Some say it’s a decades-old issue.
“That problem has been going on for years, and years, and years,” said Terry Paul, chief of the nearby First Nations community of Membertou.
“We had the same issues when I was growing up in the ‘60s for God sake. It should be done. This is unacceptable really.”
In the 2016 federal budget, the government committed $1.8 billion over five years to improve on-reserve water and wastewater infrastructure, proper facility operation, maintenance, and the training of water system operators.
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada say design work is underway for a new water treatment facility in the area, but it’s a long-term solution and the people of Polotek First Nation are growing restless.
“No community should have to go through this,” said Eliza Marshall, a resident of Polotek First Nation. “This is Canada, we’re not overseas.”
With a report from CTV Atlantic’s Kyle Moore