What stinks in Cape Breton?

Known for its two world-class golf resorts, a former coal mining town in Cape Breton is quickly gaining a reputation for something other than spectacular seaside fairways.

In recent weeks, Inverness, N.S., has become one of the most foul-smelling communities on the island.

With the putrid stench of human waste wafting from an overworked sewage lagoon, residents say the local infrastructure hasn't kept pace with the town's growth since the courses started attracting golfers from around the world.

"This is a crisis," says Rose Mary MacDonald, president of the Inverness Development Association.

"People are running, they're covering their mouths, they're going in their houses and closing the windows. It's that bad."

The smell is worse than rotten eggs, she says, adding that golfers were recently spotted gagging on the greens.

"They were holding their noses and saying, 'Mother of God, what is that?'" MacDonald says. "It's going to stunt our growth. It's embarrassing."

The fetid waste-water facility is adjacent to Cabot Links, which opened in 2011 — marking the start of the revival of a hardscrabble town that withered after its last coal mine closed in the 1990s.

The challenging course, which sits on the abandoned mine site, has been hailed by golf connoisseurs as an unpolished gem that evokes the game's Scottish linksland heritage.

Aside from the golf courses, Inverness is also known for its spectacular 1.5-kilometre beach, part of which has been closed to swimmers because of elevated bacteria counts.

Earlier this week, more than 200 residents — some wearing gas masks — gathered outside the Miners Museum in the town to call on the federal and provincial governments to help the municipality replace a facility that was designed to last only until 1993.

The municipality has already applied for a $6.3-million grant, but the area's member of Parliament, Liberal Rodger Cuzner, has said the town will have to wait until the next round of funding is approved after the federal election in October.

Betty Ann MacQuarrie, warden of the Municipality of the County of Inverness, said the problem is so bad emergency funding is needed.

"There has to be something done in the interim to conquer what's happening there," she said, adding that short-term repairs have failed.

"I don't know of anybody who likes to sit out on a deck and eat while that smell is wafting through the air. In the heat, the muggy days, it's there."

MacDonald was more blunt: "Put a push on it, and get it done. Cut the red tape."

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