‘The fish aren’t back’: Potlotek First Nation has plan to protect its waters

The chief of a Mi’kmaq Nation on Unama’ki, Mi’kmaw for Cape Breton Island fears a pair of sewage lagoons is polluting the community’s water supply.

Chief Wilbert Marshall of the Potlotek First Nation is frustrated the lagoons were built beside a lake in the first place.

The nation is located along the southern shore of the Bras d’Or Lake estuary that drains into the Atlantic Ocean.

Marshall said Robertson’s Cove used to be a good place for swimming and fishing – offering up flounder, cod and trout.

But not anymore.

“I always say you can fool the people, but you can’t fool the fish. The fish aren’t back, they know something is wrong here.”

A new water plant installed about four years ago fixed the issue of brown tap water.

Now, the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority is upgrading the lagoons that were built in the 1980s. The lagoons are situated in the centre of the community and the water is disinfected with ultra-violet light to kill bacteria.

“It doesn’t smell too good,” admitted fisherman Evan Johnson. “It’s located just behind my place.”

The Mi’kmaq manage their own water system through the AFNWA that serves Mi’kmaw and Wolastoqeyik Nations.

It is funded by a 10-year commitment from the federal government for nearly $300 million.

Plans call for a new UV-disinfectant system to be installed this year, and the entire treatment system to be overhauled within five years at a cost of $6 million.

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