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Band councillor decries brown, smelly water coming from taps on N.S. reserve

Residents of a Cape Breton native reserve are fed up with the brown, smelly water that is coming out of their taps and want Ottawa to come up with a permanent fix, a council member said Monday.

Jocelyn Marshall of the Potlotek First Nation said there are high concentrations of manganese and iron in the water, discolouring it and causing a strong odour.

Most people are not drinking the water, or even bathing in it, she said.

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"They're not able to wash, they're not able to do their laundry or their dishes," she said from the community of St. Peter's, about 75 kilometres south of Sydney. "We're not able to use the water...The smell and the colour alone are enough to discourage anyone from drinking the water."

She said the water is black in some houses and has sediment in it.

She said band members met with officials from Indigenous and Northern Affairs last week and say there will be an information session with them and Health Canada on the reserve Tuesday.

"We're doing all we can, not only as chief and council but as community members to look for help," she said. "We're looking for a permanent solution to this crisis. They're always giving us a Band-Aid fix."

Last week, Chief Leroy Denny of the Eskasoni First Nation arranged the delivery of a tractor trailer of clean drinking water to the community. A total of 24 pallets of four-litre jugs were donated by Crane Cove Seafoods and two pallets were provided by Big 8 Beverages Ltd.

The federal and Nova Scotia governments have said they are planning to respond to the water crisis in the Mi'kmaq reserve, but Denny says that will take some time, and in the interim residents are in need of supplies.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett tweeted last week that the condition of the water on the Potlotek reserve is "completely unacceptable," saying her department was working with the band to develop a new water system.

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