After years of waiting and debating the water crisis on Potlotek First Nation in Cape Breton, residents finally had their say with government officials. 

Community members and the band council in Potlotek met with officials from Northern Affairs and Health Canada Tuesday to discuss the long-standing problem and possible interim solutions.

Despite the thick black and often smelly water coming out of people's taps, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. David Butler-Jones says the water is safe, even taking a drink of the water at the meeting to demonstrate. 

“The discoloration will stain your clothes when it gets bad, etc. It tastes bad, it looks bad, but it is not however dangerous,” says Dr. Butler-Jones.

Reassurances of safety did not sit well with residents, who refuse to drink the water. They say one glass may not hurt, but years of consumption will.

“Not you doctor, or anyone else in Canada, is going to convince me there's nothing wrong with our water,” says one resident.

“We trusted you guys too long and look at us today. There are so many sick people in my community. If you only knew,” says resident Bernadette Marshall.

“Drinking all this water over the years, I got sick. I'm 48-years-old and I’m disabled,” says another residentwho attended the meeting.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada did announce a new multimillion-dollar water system, but noted it will take time to construct and design the facility.

“In the design the first thing that's going to happen is, what is the best source of water for you? In that process experts will be on sight for drilling and a lot of analysis,” says Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada regional director Chris McDonnell.

Testing and design could begin this month according to McDonnell. In the short term, limestone will be added to decrease manganese levels.

“These elevated levels of iron and manganese are cyclical and it will lower itself as the water cools and will go back to a normal colour and perhaps a normal smell,” says McDonnell.

A permanent solution will take years to complete, but residents say they don't want to wait that long and are adamant they don’t want the lake as their primary source of water.

For now, residents will continue to have access to clean bottled waterprovided by Northern Affairs since last month.

Officials will continue to flush lines and test the water for the next few weeks.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kyle Moore.