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Potlotek First Nation chief hires water experts from Ireland to assess crisis
The chief of Potlotek First Nation has taken the fight for clean drinking water on the reserve into his own hands.
Chief Wilbert Marshall has hired an independent company from Ireland to investigate why discoloured water continues to pour into the reserve’s treatment facility.
The company has set up its own system to test the water to try and find a solution.
“It removes all the bacteria, anything that's in the water,” says Les Walsh of Brewal Ireland Ltd. “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. When we put the full unit here we will be able to take it down to Health Canada standards.”
Residents living on Potlotek First Nation say their water is so dirty, they’re hesitating to wash clothes with it.
“It's frustrating for an operator and a community member here. I'm tired of it also. I'd like to resolve this problem as soon as we can,” says water treatment facility operator Alex Marshall.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development says design work is underway for a new water treatment facility, but that is a long-term solution. For the community of 600 people, they say they can't wait that long and need a solution now.
In the neighbouring First Nation community of Membertou, Chief Terry Paul is angry water is still an issue.
“That problem has been going on for years,” Chief Paul says. “We had the same issues when I was growing up in the 60s … This is unacceptable. It's a serious health issue.”
Some residents are angry they were not notified sooner.
“They got the letter on Aug. 25 and they should've let everyone know on the reserve. Everybody has been itching and they're wondering why,” says resident Michael Marshall.
Chief Wilbert Marshall is vowing the problem will be fixed, whether he has to pay for it himself or not.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kyle Moore.