City sets up water station after fuel smell returns to Iqaluit’s water

Nunavut government says ‘there is no evidence that a do not consume order is necessary’

A City of Iqaluit employee and a resident meet at the door to the Elders Qammaq Monday afternoon to fill jugs with water from the Sylvia Grinnell River. (Photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Updated at 5:45 p.m.

The City of Iqaluit is distributing water from Sylvia Grinnell River Monday in response to complaints that the smell of fuel has returned to the city’s treated water.

The water depot will be open from 3 to 8 p.m. at the Elders Qammaq, according to a news release issued by recreation director Stephanie Clark. The city is asking residents bring refillable containers, and to boil the water before drinking it or cooking with it.

Clark said, in an email, that the depot is starting later in the day to allow time for the trucks and pumps to warm up indoors.

“The cold always makes things more challenging when you’re working with water,” she said.

The city is hoping to run the water depot for the week, Clark said, while staff continue to flush the water system.

Reports about a fuel smell in the water began to emerge on the evening of Jan. 13. The city confirmed later that day that trace amounts of fuel had entered the water distribution system on Monday and Wednesday.

The amounts were well below national healthy drinking water guidelines, according to news releases from the city and Nunavut Department of Health.

Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell has posted on social media that fuel levels recorded by the city’s real-time hydrocarbon monitoring station were between 50 and 60 micrograms per litre. The Canadian government’s safety guidelines for this type of fuel is 390 micrograms per litre.

It’s been just over one month since Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, lifted an advisory to not consume Iqaluit’s tap water. People first reported their water smelled of fuel on Oct. 2, and 10 days later the government told people to stop drinking it after the discovery of fuel contamination at Iqaluit’s water treatment plant.

On Jan. 6, the City of Iqaluit informed people that fuel made it into a treated water tank on Dec. 16, but this contamination didn’t make it into the city’s distribution system. This incident was blamed on maintenance at the plant.

The Government of Nunavut has not reinstated a do-not-consume water advisory, but a news release from the Department of Health over the weekend said the GN and city are both doing additional sampling of the water.

On Monday, the Government of Nunavut said in a statement that the Department of Health is working with the city to monitor water quality. “Currently there is no evidence that a do not consume order is necessary,” the statement said.

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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by Knight in not so shiny armour on

    Mayor bell has been laying low. I suspect he’s waiting for the news crews so that he can ride in on his white horse and make a grand appearance.

    • Posted by Oscare on

      This is Nunavut’s “WATERGATE”!!!

  2. Posted by THIS IS NOT OKAY on

    This is not okay. Has no one asked the question, HOW is fuel getting into the water supply? Where is it coming from? I don’t care about Canadian acceptable levels… no one should be drinking water contaminated with fuel. If the problem was solved, WHERE is the fuel coming from? What was the source of the contamination this time? Are we sure there aren’t more underground tanks? Are we sure no one physically contaminated it intentionally? Are we sure the originally discovered fuel tank was the only source of contamination? These questions need answers.

  3. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    remember years ago when bloodworms were discovered in the Gjoa Haven water supply, the Minister of Health and Premier kept insisting that they are benign harmless worms that cause a discolouration and the water was safe to drink.

    so the Gjoa Haven MLA brought a sample of the bloodworms to the Legislature.

    Will this have to be done here and ask our elected officials to drink this “safe water” to have something done right once and for all?

  4. Posted by Leave it to Beaver on

    It’s too bad that Kenny has lost all trust that any residents may have had in him to begin with. It doesn’t matter what he says now, even if the water is safe to drink.

  5. Posted by Glass Half Full of Diesel Water on

    Thanks to Covid I can’t smell the diesel in the water at all!

  6. Posted by City of Iqaluit needs an Overhaul on

    So recreation is running public works?
    Lets start pointing the finger at upper management and not so much the mayor.

    • Posted by Remember Truman on

      The buck ultimately stops with the mayor, not his underlings like the CAO.

  7. Posted by ChesLey on

    Go easy people, be kind and thoughtful of one another. We are in a stressful period this last 2 years. It is pretty awful to hear of the Iqaluit water contamination to deal with as well, hope that things will be better soon with the water supply.


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