Take thousands of people, put them on an island for four days with no sewage system and no where to dispose of their garbage and you can imagine what is left behind. This was the scene every year at the annual Chapel Island Mission in the small community of Potlotek.
Back in 2006, the members of the Pitu’paq committee decided that something needed to be done and they were going to do it! Pitu’paq is composed of representatives from the five Mi’kmaq communities and five municipalities around the Bras d’Or Lakes. Working together with the Mi’kmaq Grand Council, UINR, Health Canada and the Union of Nova Scotia Indians, Pitupaq developed a sewage and waste management plan for the Mission and put it in place.
Pictured in the photo above are members of the Chapel Island teams. From left to right: Darrell Morris, Brian Marshall, Kevin Johnson, Rueben Paul, Kendall Marshall, Keenan Bernard, Dennis Nevin, Derrick Dennis, Noah Johnson, Laurie Suitor, Justin Nicholas, Buck Levesque, Jude Johnson, Katie Lameman. Missing from the photo are team members: Clark Paul and Brandon Tracey.
For the third consecutive year, there is a plan in place and, once again, project
co-ordinator Laurie Suitor from UINR is working with students from Nova Scotia Youth Corps, eight students from Chapel Island and other staff provided by Membertou, Eskasoni and Chapel Island.
The student task force will distribute Green Kits to trailer owners, cabin dwellers and visitors. Included are clear and blue bags, cabin notification/trailer permits and a brochure.
Over the years, sewage has been a major issue at the Mission. Among the main concerns are water contamination from trailer waste and cottage potties being dumped into the Bras d’Or Lakes. Now, in addition to portable toilets on the Island that are pumped regularly, a sewage-pump-out service is available for trailers on the mainland.
The work you see during the days of the Mission starts many weeks before, with clearing brush, making service roads and cleaning up debris and cabins.
The success of Pitu’paq’s plan is summed up by Laurie, “Last year we were able to keep the beaches open before, during and after the Mission. Let’s keep up the good work!”