Airport cargo workers put in long hours to get drinking water to Iqaluit residents

‘There’s a colossal amount of people involved,’ says cargo manager TJ Campbell

Iqaluit cargo workers unload shipping containers full of bottled water off jets Thursday and Friday. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

By Mélanie Ritchot

In the past two days Canadian North has had four extra cargo jets land in Iqaluit, in addition to its regularly scheduled planes, with more scheduled in the coming days to get bottled water to Iqalummiut.

“That’s on top of our already-heavy production and regularly scheduled cargo,” says TJ Campbell, the manager of Canadian North cargo in Iqaluit.

About 200,000 pounds – or more than 90,000 kilograms – of bottled water have landed so far, Campbell estimated in an interview, near three jets carrying water parked on the runway.

TJ Campbell is the manager of cargo with Canadian North in Iqaluit. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

One of the three planes was slated to fly to Pond Inlet empty, but stopped in Iqaluit to drop off water on the way, he said.

The water shipments are being brought in to Nunavut’s capital to provide drinkable water to residents, following the city’s announcement earlier in the week that residents should not drink their tap water because of suspected petroleum contamination of the city’s water supply.

One cargo jet was completely full of bottled water and the second carried food to stock the grocery stores, some bottled water brought in by the Government of Nunavut, and ready-to-drink baby formula, arranged by an Ottawa woman and Arctic Co-operatives Ltd.

The GN’s shipment Friday afternoon was about 89,000 litres of water with another 42,000 scheduled to arrive next week, a City of Iqaluit news release said.

Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. will also be delivering about 15,000 litres of water to the city, also expected to arrive Friday, according to the release.

“There’s a colossal amount of people involved [in coordinating this] with emails, phone calls and radios,” Campbell said, adding two different cargo companies, Cargo Jet and Nolinor Aviation, are in the mix.

Campbell said the number of cargo flights coming in Thursday and Friday — some from Ottawa and others from Winnipeg — is sustainable to continue if needed, but the organization is running at capacity.

A Cargojet plane carrying bottled water to Iqaluit is offloaded by staff at the Nunavut capital’s airport Friday. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

“We’re certainly doing everything our operation can handle, to the point where if we go further we’re not going to have people who are able to work,” he said.

Canadian North employees are only allowed to work a certain number of hours per 24-hour period, he explained.

But many rotational workers have offered to work overtime, within the legal limits, despite already having 12-hour shifts during their three-week rotations.

“We’ve had [workers] volunteer to do overtime, knowing the needs of the community,” he said.

“They do live here for those three weeks [at a time] and they do become part of the community.”

Cargo workers are being provided water on-site and at the rotational workers’ rental units so they don’t disrupt the public’s access to water by making lines longer at the pick-up stations, Campbell said.

TJ Campbell estimated about 200,000 pounds of bottled water passed through Iqaluit’s cargo facility in two days. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

The city is handing out water that arrived by cargo at Nakasuk Elementary School and the Arctic Winter Games arena Friday evening 4:30—8 p.m.

Residents who picked up water Thursday are being asked to refrain from picking up again Friday to make sure everyone gets what they need.

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(6) Comments:

  1. Posted by Pat on the back and load of profit / BS on

    Wow, it sounds like cargo is looking for a pat on the back for doing something that is making them loads of money…

    Cargo stands to make the most profit form this water emergency…
    but hey lets give them a pat on the back for doing their jobs!

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    • Posted by Fred on

      So… then I guess you’re saying that instead of gratitude, those affected by the shortage should say “gimme my water and screw off”? You have a lot to learn about gratitude. Imagine if there was nobody to send you relief supplies if you were caught up in a crisis? I’m sure that if someone helped you in your time of need, the last thing you’d do is spit in their face. You’d be grateful and expressive of your gratitude. It takes a lot of effort from a lot of people working hard, to fill the needs wherever there are needs. I fuel the planes that make runs like this, imagine if I decided that it wasn’t worth the effort and stayed home? The people in need wouldn’t get their water! I take my job seriously and see the benefits that my company provides and am proud to be part of the team. It’s more than a job.

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      • Posted by Kevin Sam Sloane on

        Good for you for standing up it’s a joint effort from all including the mine for standing up and helping out in a crisis. This is what our world needs so people can go on with their lives the people of the community didn’t ask for their water to be contaminated..let me end this in closing that I am proud of all that have come together to try and resolve this problem their is a hat tip in it for all of you and thank you for your time and effort with saying that the person with the negative comments should learn to keep them to their self
        ..

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  2. Posted by Linda J. Smith on

    One more reason to promote, support and protect breastfeeding. I co-taught a course on breastfeeding in Iqaluit in 2011 (for INFACT Canada) that was very well-received.

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    • Posted by Really!? on

      I am so disheartened by the fact that you took the time to make such an inappropriate comment. Of course we know that breast is best, and even if you were going to push that agenda, do you know what lactating mother’s need? Water. Clean, safe, water.

      Not every woman with an infant can breastfeed, and I am curious to know why you think making a parent feel guilty for something that may be out of their control is appropriate at a time like this. We are in the middle of a water crisis, and you think it’s important to add more guilt and fear to a population of parents that are guaranteed to already be stressed out and afraid for their infants’ health?

      Regardless of your point about the benefits of breastfeeding, you have managed to come off as incredibly insensitive, out of touch and as one of the many “know it all’s” that seem to think they know what’s best for Nunavummiut.

      Ikajujaangikkuvi, nipangilaurit

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