City of Iqaluit looks for workers to help with water distribution

‘We need a lot of help right now,’ says Deputy Mayor Soloman Awa

The City of Iqaluit is hiring labourers to help with water distribution as the water emergency continues. (File photo)

By David Lochead

The City of Iqaluit is hiring temporary workers to help with water distribution as its water emergency enters its seventh week and the energy of volunteers who had been doing the work dwindles.

“We need a lot of help right now,” deputy Mayor Solomon Awa said in an interview, filling in for Mayor Kenny Bell while he is in Ottawa.

Labourers are needed to help with handing out potable water. Tasks include delivering water to residents’ homes and helping residents at filling stations who need their water carried to their cars. Driving through difficult weather to deliver water is a requirement for the position.

The wage is $33.67 an hour with the northern allowance included.

“As many as we can get,” Awa said of the amount of positions the city is looking to fill.

He added that any resident can apply.

Both Awa and Coun. Kyle Sheppard said they hope the water emergency will be over within three weeks and by then the jobs will no longer be necessary.

The city’s water emergency began in October when people began complaining of a fuel-like smell in their tap water. On Oct. 12, the city reported fuel, later confirmed to be diesel fuel, had contaminated its water treatment plant. The city and Government of Nunavut declared states of emergency later that day that are still in effect.

City council extended its state of emergency for another week during an emergency council meeting on Tuesday. The GN announced its extension in a news release yesterday afternoon.

Sheppard said the decision to remove the do-not-consume order for Iqaluit’s drinking water is up to Nunavut’s chief public health officer. The city has been working to meet a list of requirements the Government of Nunavut imposed before the order can be lifted.

With colder weather, fewer residents have been able to walk to filling stations, so more help is needed, especially to drive water to residents’ homes, Sheppard added.

“We need to have an adequate number of people on hand to meet the demand of [residents] needs, today, tomorrow and in the short term,” Sheppard said.

To address more difficult weather the city is transitioning is distribution of bottled water indoors, with the curling rink in Abe Okpik Hall being used for water pickup, Sheppard added.

Volunteers played a significant role in water distribution earlier during the emergency, but support has since waned, Sheppard said. He added that the city and residents have greatly appreciated the efforts of those who have helped.

“There’s no expectation the people that were coming out in the early days were going to be able to maintain this [effort] for the entire time,” Sheppard said.

The city has the funds needed for these labourer positions, Sheppard said, although additional funding is needed for longer-term water infrastructure.

Filling stations remain open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. If that timing poses problems for residents, the city is willing to change it, Sheppard said. He added that residents are encouraged to take more than a single day’s worth of water to reduce the need to return frequently.

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(12) Comments:

  1. Posted by Stay home maybe on

    Maybe mayor bell should focus on the crisis at home instead of gallivanting around Ottawa. What a time to leave in the middle of a water crisis. This man is more focused on his own agenda than that of residents. What mayor leaves town in the middle of a crisis?

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    • Posted by You’d be surprised on

      When a huge life impacting occurrence happens like this, the mayor will always be focused on that. That’s why he’s in Ottawa. Deputy mayor is appointed tasks while he is fighting for faster action face to face rather than over a phone no one will answer to.

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      • Posted by Ego boosting on

        And what exactly is the mayor doing in Ottawa? Who is he meeting with? What is he accomplishing exactly ? Actions speak louder than photo ops and name dropping. Let’s hear about the solutions that this mayor is out there trying to accomplish. He hasen’t had much luck up until this point with any of the issues (we still trying to tax churches?). A lot of blame but not tangible steps forward.

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  2. Posted by Embarr on

    Mayor bell would rather be down south give interviews about the water crisis than actually helping with the water crisis. I wonder if he talk about how he failed residents for 10 days at the start. He is more concerned with becoming famous. Remember perception is everything -and the perception of this mayor is failure

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    • Posted by Do you actually believe that? on

      Do you actually believe he is just there doing interviews? Or are you just trying to bash him?

      There is a lot of work that needs to be done and that cannot be done as quickly and efficiently within Iqaluit. You have no clue how fast you guys are being served while towns and villages across Canada have been in similar issues and weren’t even conveniently taken care of until years after. Count your blessings. IMO he is doing a great job!

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      • Posted by Maybe on

        Well maybe the mayor should provide that information. He just posts selfies and brags and doesn’t talk about the work he’s doing and how he is advancing on this issue. Do you also think he did a good job when he told residents it was safe to drink the water for ten days without having the test or knowledge to do so?

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  3. Posted by Lets Go Kenny on

    Mayor Bell needs to stop just blaming Ottawa for this crisis. There is 2 factors to this crisis:

    1) Historic inaction from the City to plan for and replace aging infrastructure. You cant blame Ottawa, when you have never had a clear ask. Also the City had no problem taking on a $34million dollar loan for a pool, yet crys for Ottawa not investing in water infrastructure. The city should have been securing lending to do some of this work, while also coming up with a clear plan to determine and budget the replacement of utilidor, water plant, and reservoirs.

    2) City negligence in not having a Director of Public works and other critical staff for 18 months. These staff are their to put systems, checks, and balances in place to ensure water is safe to drink. The GN needs to start having more oversight over the city and Hamlets to ensure they are meeting staffing and inspection requirements. If that plant was regularly inspected they would have caught the fuel in the holding tanks much sooner by smelling and seeing it!

    Mayor Bell going to Ottawa is terrible optics, on top of this the city has moved water hand out to middle of the working day meaning the volunteers are unable to provide the assistance they had been up until this point. Go back to afternoon/evening distribution.

    Also can we please stop with the back patting of Mayor and Council for responding to a crisis of their own making.

    If Mayor and Council do not ask for the CAOs resignation over this crisis, Mayor and Council should step down!

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  4. Posted by Total disaster on

    The city has done a terrible job with water delivery. Always changing hours and locations, no supplies for people and giving small bottles that can’t be refilled. Can’t they find enough volunteers to do this instead of paying City staff to mann the stations? Why haven’t they asked the community for help.

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    • Posted by note on

      The volunteers have actual jobs. Now that water distribution has been moved to mostly regular working hours, they can’t help.

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  5. Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

    I’ve said it before and Ill say it again. Go to the men’s shelter at 8.00 a.m. There are lots of guys there willing to work. They don’t need to be hired formally. Give them $25/hr in cash/cheque.
    We did it all summer for sealift – no problem. Don’t get into too many rules here folks. Do It and get off facebook

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