Falling temperatures won’t deter Iqaluit water purification, military says

Operation scheduled until Nov. 17 but can be extended another 2 weeks

A member of the Canadian Armed Forces connects the hose delivering water from the military’s reverse osmosis water purification unit into a city truck, which will deliver the water to filling stations in the city. (Photo credit David Lochead)

By David Lochead

The Canadian military is confident it can continue to operate its water purification units in Iqaluit as temperatures remain below freezing, multiple members said in a tour of the operation set up along the Sylvia Grinnell River.

Since Tuesday, members of the Canadian Armed Forces have been pumping water from the river, purifying it using specialized portable equipment, then giving it to city workers to truck it to city-run filling stations. It’s part of the response to the water emergency that began in October, when diesel fuel was discovered in the city’s water supply.

The water purification exercise is known as Operation Lentus by the military. Maj. Scott Purcell, the department commander in Iqaluit, said the operation is scheduled until Nov. 17 and can be extended for two weeks. Purcell added the Government of Nunavut and federal government are discussing whether to move forward with an extension.

“If there remains a need of water, it is likely they will extend [the operation],” Maj. Susan Magill said of the territorial and federal government’s extension decision.

She added that she believes the military will be able to operate in colder conditions if its operations continue beyond Nov. 17.

Currently the water purification units are delivering around 44,000 litres a day, said Sgt. Matthew Dimma. In ideal circumstances, the water purification units can put out 5,250 litres an hour, but in Iqaluit the operation is challenged by working in a small space at the river and the amount of water the city is able to distribute, Dimma said.

To operate the water purification units, the military has broken through a layer of ice at the river to pump the water below. That water is pumped into large containers called bladders. It’s then run through the water purification unit and then transferred into separate bladders that hold the potable water.

The bladders for the unpurified water hold 11,000 litres, Dimma said. When a city truck arrives, the water from the bladders is pumped into the truck. Master Cpl. Adam Johnston said the purified water bladders hold around 13,000 litres while a city truck can hold 11,000 litres.

The operation’s big challenge is ensuring that the equipment and the water itself doesn’t freeze, Dimma said.

“Mainly the freezing of everything we have here has been a big issue,” Dimma said.

The reverse osmosis water purification unit in action. The purification unit operates under a heating tent to stay warm enough to function (Photo by David Lochead)

Heating tents are being used to ensure equipment stays warm enough to function.

This is the first time the military’s water purification units have operated this far north, Magill said in a previous interview with Nunatsiaq News.

To continue extracting water at the same rate in colder temperatures, the military will go further down the river, where the water is deeper, he said.

Potable water is available at AWG arena and the library filling station from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

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(3) Comments:

  1. Posted by Redbrew1 on

    The CAF has a long and successful history of providing potable water in many parts of the world and the cit is in good hands for this crisis. Stay strong .

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  2. Posted by This is good news! on

    I don’t know why people haven’t commented much on this. This is great news. I hope that everyone is given adequate means of water during this pandemic. It is more essential than ever. Thank you, CAF.

    • Posted by Anticlimax on

      Well, after finally coming on line after a couple weeks it seems it will be over in about a week… Over, as soon as it begins. I guess that’s reflective of a larger and happier fact that the crisis is winding down.

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