Fuel smell inside water treatment plant may have been due to maintenance, says Patterson

Nunavut government will review conduct during lead-up to Iqaluit’s water emergency

Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, says the fuel smell an government environmental officer noted at Iqaluit’s water treatment facility on Oct. 8 might have been from maintenance work going on at the plant at the time. (Photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The strong smell of fuel noted by a Health Department inspector at Iqaluit’s water treatment facility may have been caused by maintenance work being done within the building, says Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson.

Government of Nunavut emails acquired by Nunatsiaq News through the territory’s access to information law indicate an environmental health officer inspected the facility on Oct. 8 — four days prior to the territory issuing a do-not-consume water advisory — and experienced an “unbearable” smell of fuel in the building.

The officer concluded the city should hire an environment consultant to look into whether the smell at the plant was related to the reported odours in the water.

Patterson said in an interview that the smell of fuel can’t necessarily be linked to the water contamination, as there was maintenance work going on in the building that could have contributed to the smell.

“Looking back on it, or going back to try and figure it out, might not be possible,” he said.

Patterson said that there will be a review of the government’s conduct during the water emergency to learn lessons on how to handle a similar situation in the future.

Iqaluit residents began complaining their water smelled like gas in early October.

The city’s chief administrative officer, Amy Elgersma, who was at the forefront of the investigations, could not be reached for comment.

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(15) Comments:

  1. Posted by Lines in Iqaluit on

    I still am not clear as to what happened with our water. I know there was hydro carbons in our water.

    Was it from a spill years ago? Mischief recently? Old military drums that eventually seeped in our water?

    I feel part of our frustration is we don’t know exactly the cause or what the situation is…”here’s some free bottle water” that’s all we get lately.

    I’d love a full break down as to what was the cause.

    • Posted by Mark M Koroi on

      I have a hard time believing they cannot rule out the maintenance work as the cause of the odor.
      Would not the workers conducting the maintenance be able to relate their own liquids they were using to the actual smell?
      Did the onset of the foul odor coincide with the commencement of the maintenance?
      Seems to me you would not need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure this out.

  2. Posted by Frank on

    Government third party review? Will the city undertake a review as well. does Patterson mean both levels of government including the city?

  3. Posted by Pee on me and tell me it’s rain on

    Does anyone even need to dissect this steaming pile that’s being shovelled onto the citizens of Iqaluit?

    I like how Dr. Patterson has already concluded that this can no longer be determined, and we’ll just wait for a report to provide “lessons learned.”

    Nothing like the CHIEF medical officer of Health already drafting the GN report, its outcome and his pre-determined conclusion.

    Closer independent scrutiny is definitely required. C’mon P.J, make your officials call an independent inquiry into your health departments handling of this and use the hamlet act or whatever associated legislation to dig into the City’s handling of this as well.

  4. Posted by So Little Information on

    I’d suggest the City of Iqaluit be placed under trusteeship…
    Except that it appears the GN also should be placed under trusteeship.
    Who can we rely on?
    Where is Mighty Mouse when he’s needed??

  5. Posted by Jenny on

    Wait, I’m confused.

    Is this article suggesting the contamination of the water supply was caused by a maintenance issue, or that there was coincidentally a maintenance related fuel spill in the facility during the same time period the water issues first started?

    And how can we never know? It should be quite obvious if the contamination was internal, or sourced from historic waste disposal. If they can’t figure that out, how will they remedy it?

    And if the entire city not having access to clean water was caused by an irresponsible maintenance worker, that should also be pretty obvious to pinpoint.

    This is just sounding more and more ridiculous.

    • Posted by Mark M Koroi on

      Let us just hope that Iqaluit will not be the next Flint, Michigan.

  6. Posted by Beleaver on

    Assumption “may”. Fact: hydrocarbon aka gas/fuel leaked into the water supply. I think it’s City’s incompetence and GN negligence that caused it.

  7. Posted by 2 more years…sigh on

    Sounds like this investigation is going to be a bunk. I suspect we’ll hear what they want us to hear. People seem to be working harder trying to cover up their mistakes than fixing this crisis. All trust in the city is gone and we still have two more years until the next election. incapable people doing things they should not be doing, no transparency, no accountability and residents suffering.

  8. Posted by Trust issues on

    It’s not that we don’t believe it was probably due to maintenance

    It’s not that we don’t believe this was an accident

    It’s not that we don’t believe this will be fixed eventually and that the water is probably safe to drink

    etc etc etc…

    It’s that almost NO ONE in this toen trusts Kenny Bell anymore. He’s made this water crisis worse with his ego and anger management issues. He needs to resign.

  9. Posted by No trust any more. on

    This story continues to come out one misleading and contradictory fact at a time.

  10. Posted by Let down on

    As the days goes on, it is becoming apparent that elected officials are more worried about themselves. Mayor Bell has been cracking jokes and calling concerned citizens trolls on his public media accounts. He gets defensive and has not been transparent. This is Not a leader. I feel hurt and let down by the people elected to help us and keep us safe. The councillors never seem to comment on his antics and it has become the Kenny bell show. Most of all I feel sad for Iqaluit. We need better choices for our municipal elections. People who have empathy and are respectful. Inuit leaders! Thank you.

    • Posted by Let’s Go Brandon on

      I don’t know about Twitter, but I believe he just deactivated his Facebook account again, can’t take the heat, Kenny is not a leader, his ego got the best of him, worst Mayor in Iqaluit history for sure.
      Just resign already Kenny

      Let’s Ho Kenny!

  11. Posted by I live in the Arctic on

    i don’t get it, what is the plan to inform the citizens of iqaluit of what happened, are they waiting until it thaws to conduct a thorough investigation, don’t want to ruin holiday plans?

  12. Posted by Ken on

    might have been but highly unlikely! What about that old rusted fuel tank under the treatment plant? Leaking away for years.
    I would like to know where our mayor and council members are with this mess? I find it incredible that our elected officials are choosing to hide when we need them the most, trying to get information about how this started, what happened and what is happening to fix this is near impossible!
    I want everyone to remember this mayor and council for any future reference when they throw their names in for any election, they are not fit to run! What a gong show!

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