NEWS: Nunavut August 03, 2018 - 10:40 am

Whale Cove still has coliform in its drinking water, four years later

New water filtration system to be installed mid-August


For the fourth summer on record, Government of Nunavut health officials have issued a boil water advisory for the Kivalliq community of Whale Cove.

The community of 400 has had an ongoing issue with the presence of coliform bacteria in its freshwater source through the summer and fall, though hamlet officials have yet to understand what causes it.

The GN calls the advisory a precautionary measure, but it requires residents to boil any water they plan to consume for at least a full minute.

That includes water used for preparing infant formula, juices and ice cubes, as well as water used for washing fruits and vegetables, for cooking or brushing teeth, the GN said in an Aug. 2 release.

While healthy adults and older children can shower or bathe with the community’s tap water, health officials advise that infants, toddlers and people with illnesses should be sponge bathed to avoid swallowing water, the GN added.

The hamlet said there have been no reported illnesses linked to the community’s drinking water so far this year.

Coliform is a type of bacteria that occurs naturally in plants, soil and in the digestive tracts of humans and animals, although humans are at risk of becoming ill from water-borne coliform.

In the past, hamlet officials blamed the presence of bacteria on heavy rains in the spring months, which were thought to have possibly contaminated the community’s water source—a lake just outside the village. But officials have never pinpointed the source.

In 2017, the boil water advisory lasted a total of four months, from late June through until early November.

Partway through the summer, the GN announced funding for a $500,000 water filtration system to remove coliform from the system—a temporary fix to the problem.

The filtration unit was shipped to Whale Cove by sealift, but the hamlet was unable to have it installed before the winter freeze-up.

Now, the hamlet said a crew is scheduled to arrive early this month to install the unit, which should be up and running by mid-month.

“The plant will be operated during the summer seasons to mitigate the water quality issue until a permanent solution can be made,” Nunavut’s Health Department said in a release.