Fuel confirmed in Iqaluit’s water supply

Long-term health effects of drinking city’s tap water prior to advisories ‘not a concern,’ says Dr. Patterson

The City of Iqaluit’s chief administrative officer Amy Elgersma, Mayor Kenny Bell, and Nunavut chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson speak at a news conference Friday evening after receiving test results from the city’s water supply. (Photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Test results from Iqaluit’s water treatment plant found “exceedingly high concentrations” of fuel in a water storage tank, says chief administrative officer Amy Elgersma.

Elgersma confirmed the presence of fuel in the city’s water supply during a Friday afternoon news conference also attended by Mayor Kenny Bell and Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer.

“It’s important to note that the water quality testing of the treated reservoir located downstream from the water treatment plant showed levels well within health limits,” Elgersma said.

The fuel is likely either diesel or kerosene, Patterson said. He said there is no evidence that other, more concerning chemicals, such as benzene, had contaminated the water.

“The best evidence we have available right now indicates that the risk of long-term health effects is not a concern at this time,” Patterson said.

The city first heard complaints from residents that tap water smelled like fuel on Oct. 2 and began investigating.

Ten days later, the city and the Government of Nunavut, which joined the investigation Oct. 3, found a containment tank in the city’s water treatment plant that smelled strongly of fuel. That evening, the GN and city issued advisories to not drink the water.

It remains unclear how fuel got inside the tank, but Elgersma said the working theory is that the tank cracked and contaminants seeped in through the ground.

The contaminated tank has now been isolated from the rest of the water treatment system. Water from it is being pumped into holding tanks to be treated, Elgersma said. Once the tank is empty, workers will look for signs of how fuel found its way inside.

Over the weekend, the city will continue the work it began Thursday of flushing the water system, Elgersma said. Once that is finished, residents will need to run their taps for 20 minutes to flush the pipes in their homes.

The do-not-drink advisory will not be lifted until at least mid-next week, Patterson said.

Territorial and municipal governments will continue testing over the next “several months,” Elgersma said.

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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by Qulliq Energy Tanks on

    The diesel tanks for the power plant are very close to the water treatment plant. Is the power plant leaking fuel?

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  2. Posted by Michael Smith on

    This is unacceptable, after the public meeting friday night ,they are definatly hiding lots . Time for real answers time for a class action law suit. Its the only way to get the truth, we have consumed fuel into our bodies, no amount of this is healthy.

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  3. Posted by nipo on

    So, October 2nd, residents start reporting an overwhelming fuel smell in their water. The city starts investigating and running tests. At what point did the city and GN start testing to see if, you know, the thing people were smelling, fuel was in the water?

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  4. Posted by Eskimo on

    A holding tank would have pressure, how would something that have pressure take diesel into the tank?

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  5. Posted by Mmmhhhmm on

    Residents are entitled to know whether their complaints were taken seriously from the start. When they say we did testing right away what kind of tests? Did the city go to peoples homes? Or did the city just do the regular tests that do not include hydrocarbons for almost two weeks? When this is all done there should be a proper independent investigation that is made public. Until then we thank the city staff who are working hard to help our community have water. Let us hope the source of the problem is found and this is fixed soon.

    • Posted by Tom Shelby on

      Why would you think a fuel truck drivers was hooked up to the main water tanks? This doesn’t seem possible.

  6. Posted by Ooookkkkkkaaaaay on

    “residents will need to run their taps for 20 minutes to flush the pipes in their homes”.
    So we need to run (waste) water for 20 min….. And who’s paying our water bills this month? Still no word on any reimbursements that we are paying for bc of City’s and GN’s oversight

    Wonder when Bell started smelling it in his water and decided to take action…

    What a joke… They’re still downplaying the situation. I have very little faith that they know what they’re doing…

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    • Posted by Mayor Bell Needs Revenue on

      That was my first thought when I read everyone will have to run their taps for 20 minutes. Anything from the city about water bills for October?

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