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Nunavut government seeks outside help to fix Sanikiluaq’s water

Sanikiluaq has had high levels of sodium in its drinking water for two years

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

Sanikiluaq is still dealing with high levels of sodium in its drinking water, two years after the problem was first discovered. The GN now says it will put out an RFP to hire a firm to look into the issue. (FILE PHOTO)


Sanikiluaq is still dealing with high levels of sodium in its drinking water, two years after the problem was first discovered. The GN now says it will put out an RFP to hire a firm to look into the issue. (FILE PHOTO)

The Government of Nunavut says it plans to hire outside help to study abnormally high levels of sodium in Sanikiluaq’s water, a problem that’s persisted for almost two years.

The issue was first discovered in mid-2016, when the hamlet tested the community’s fresh-water source, a nearby lake.

That summer, the GN installed over 200 reverse osmosis units in the community’s homes, which filter the salt out of the water, though that was only meant to be a short-term solution.

Over time, high sodium intake can have adverse effects on people with weakened immune systems, like infants or elders, or people with high blood pressure.

The community’s MLA, Allan Rumbolt, pressed the GN this week to find a longer-term solution to ensure Sanikiluaq has a safe supply of drinking water.

“One of the most basic responsibilities of government is to ensure that the supply of drinking water in our communities is safe,” Rumbolt said in the legislative assembly on May 24, the first day of its spring sitting.

“Although I want to express my appreciation for the government’s willingness to undertake the necessary emergency measures to ensure an uninterrupted supply of clean and safe drinking water for my constituents, I also want to emphasize the importance of achieving a long-term, sustainable solution for the community.”

The GN has done its own investigation to determine how the sodium is entering the community’s fresh-water source, without success.

Nunavut’s minister for community and government services, Lorne Kusugak, said the department has already begun putting together a request for proposals, with the goal of hiring an outside firm to study the issue and propose potential solutions.

“There are some options,” Kusukgak told the legislature on May 24. “One is status quo, as we have reverse osmosis machines in every single house in Sanikiluaq right now. It seems to be holding.

“There are options of maybe getting a new water source with a new water plant,” he added. “We are going to investigate into a water aquifer with a new plant or maybe a reverse osmosis plant at the current site.”

Kusugak didn’t indicate when the RFP would go out.

In the meantime, the Baffin hamlet is still required to order more reverse osmosis filters to install in new housing units and elsewhere as needed, which has proven a challenge given the range of organizations responsible for the different units and facilities in Sanikiluaq.

Kusugak said his department has considered setting up a “one-stop shop” for the community to order its filters through the GN, to make deliveries more efficient.

“We’re trying to simplify it all and remove the middleman … so that the materials that need to be there to have clean drinking water, the filters and whatnot, are there in a timely manner and not held up because someone forgot to order them or someone didn’t pay a bill,” Kusugak said on May 24.

“We are trying to simplify that whole deal so that it’s there well before it’s required to be.”

But Kusugak added that, as far as he’s aware, the community of about 900 currently has an adequate supply of the filters.

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