Soil and water

Drinking water in Iqaluit: the army arrives in the midst of a water crisis


IQALUIT, NUNAVUT – The Canadian Armed Forces say their members have arrived in the capital of Nunavut to help deal with the city’s water-related emergency.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted on Friday that he had spoken with Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq and that the military would be deployed to Iqaluit to coordinate and provide potable water.

Late Saturday, the military tweeted that there are over 20 members of the Canadian Armed Forces in Iqaluit installing deployable equipment for reverse osmosis water purification.

The 8,000 residents of Iqaluit have not been able to consume contaminated tap water for nearly two weeks after fuel was found in the samples.

Residents have collected water from the town’s Sylvia Grinnell River and free bottled water from distribution sites, and local officials say they are continuing their efforts to identify the source of the contamination.

In a press release on Sunday, the city said the investigation to date had highlighted potential hydrocarbon contamination in the soil or groundwater outside the municipal water treatment plant, which , according to her, could have seeped into a storage tank.

“The underground tank containing the high concentrations of contaminants in the water treatment plant was isolated, pumped for remediation and underwent cleaning,” the statement said.

“The affected reservoir has been successfully bypassed and the water continues to be treated and sent to the City’s distribution system. “

The system has been emptied, but the city says it will have to be redone and a no-water order remains in place.

Amy Elgersma, the city’s administrative director, said last week that an assessment found “no obvious cracks” in the contaminated tank.

The territory’s chief public health officer, Dr Michael Patterson, told a press conference on Friday that residents can still smell fuel in their water even though the city bypassed the contaminated tank.

Patterson said the health risks to residents who drink the city’s tap water are very low.

The city’s Sunday press release noted that an environmental site assessment is underway where contractors will drill soil and water samples around the treatment plant. He said the next steps depend on the results of the tests.

“We will follow our experts on the actions required to clean up the site,” the statement said.

He also noted that the city had installed a “real-time water monitoring station focused on the detection and trend of hydrocarbons” on Sunday. He said the monitoring station “will allow the city to obtain real-time information on oil levels.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 24, 2021.


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