GN confirms fuel in Iqaluit water

Nunavut government working with city to ‘monitor’ and ‘improve’ capital’s drinking water system

Eric and Hannah Idlaut fill jugs with water Friday evening at the Sylvia Grinnell River after the City of Iqaluit said it received complaints about the municipal water supply smelling like fuel again. Hannah holds the light over a two-feet deep hole, wide enough to insert a four-litre water bottle, while Eric does the filling, using a pitcher and spout. The pair said they could smell fuel in their tap water Friday, but they don’t normally consume it, anyway. Eric comes here each week to get water for him and his parents. (Photo by David Venn)

By Nunatsiaq News

Fuel oil did enter Iqaluit’s municipal drinking water system again recently, the Government of Nunavut Health Department confirmed in a statement issued Saturday afternoon.

But levels of fuel that entered the system are below Health Canada’s drinking water values, according to the statement issued by department spokesperson Danarae Sommerville.

On Thursday night, some Iqaluit residents began complaining about a fuel-like smell in their tap water. More concerns were raised on Friday. By Friday morning, more than 50 complaints were posted to a popular Iqaluit Facebook group’s page.

The territory’s Health Department said Saturday it is working with the City of Iqaluit to address the smell of fuel in residents’ water.

“We will continue to monitor and work to improve the system,” the GN’s statement said.

The GN’s report Saturday echoed what the city said on Friday when it reported “a trace amount of hydrocarbons entered the distribution system” on Monday and Wednesday.

Iqaluit residents experienced a two-month water emergency, beginning in mid-October after people complained their water smelled like fuel.

It was later determined diesel fuel had contaminated the water supply. The GN’s Health Department issued a do-no-consume advisory, prompting city residents and businesses to rely on bottled water or water they drew themselves from the Sylvia Grinnell River.

In November and December, the Canadian military set up a temporary water purification system that helped meet the city’s water needs by also taking water from the river and distributing the clean water at city-run filling stations.

On Dec. 10, after nearly two months, the Government of Nunavut lifted its do-not-consume order.

On Jan. 6, the city announced the water monitoring station at the water treatment plant detected measurable amounts of hydrocarbons in one of the city’s treated water tanks on Dec. 16. The announcement said the discovery led to a “brief shutdown” of the plant, and staff determined the contamination was due to maintenance.

The government has not issued a do-not-consume order related to last week’s detection of fuel in the water system.

News that a fuel-like smell was once again detected in Iqaluit’s water prompted some people to once again start drawing water through holes cut into the now-frozen Sylvia Grinnell River.

The Government of Nunavut recommends that Iqalummiut who smell fuel oil in their water contact the city’s water quality hotline at 867-979-5603.

The GN is expected to provide an update on the water situation on Monday.

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(15) Comments:

  1. Posted by Confused on

    I dont know about the rest of you but personally I would’nt believe a word the city or anyone speaking on their behalf says anymore. After all we were told by the mayor and cao for two weeks that there was no fuel in the water when this whole thing started. Turns out it was a mere 1,000,000 times higher than allowed by health Canada. Maybe time to charter a couple of hercs Kenny and get some bottled water up here again!!! This doesnt look like its gonna end anytime soon

    • Posted by Immaq on

      It takes the public for an identification of a problem.

      Is there no testing done for us and to prevent this incident? Why was this (or other issues) not found before an uproar?

    • Posted by Arctic hamster on

      Health Canada guideline state that a certain (small) amount of hydrocarbons in the water is safe, and that is probably based on scientific studies that are reliable. But this “safe” was only found in the context where the studies were conducted. What we don’t know about this “guideline” : Is it safe for a day? a week? a year? a lifetime??? We all know that traces amount of radiation will not cause cancer, but radiologists were protective gear and are usually in a separate room when we get radio imaging done, that is because accumulation of exposure it toxic and deadly! What IS the line that we can’t cross. It’s astonishing that the City and GN have the audacity to tell us the water is “safe” because of HC guidelines without publishing a plan on making the process safer! This town needs better infrastructure !! – 20 years ago!!!! Clearly, whatever was done during this las crisis was NOT sufficient nor adequate.

      Stay safe and healthy fellow Iqalumiut!

  2. Posted by totally unacceptable on

    Maintenance caused contamination..This is total BS and. people need to be help accountable.After. all the issues they again contaminate our drinking water.. The city can’t open up lots for development. It can’t even run a water plant. Totally unacceptable.

  3. Posted by Melissa on

    If you can smell fuel in your water, it is not safe! I don’t care what anyone says. If it was at a level of healthy consumption, you would not be able to smell it. Simple as that!. This whole situation is ridiculous. People have already had side effects from drinking the water. Get some clean water in the city before people get really sick!!!

  4. Posted by Captain Obvious, reporting for duty on

    What this says, among many things, is that the government really didn’t address the problem the first time. Though they felt they had done so… what does that tell us?

  5. Posted by James on

    I’m sick of the “well below Canadian standards” explanation/excuse. Some gas is still gas, man. How is this acceptable?

    “Oh just some gas, you say? No problem them. Bottoms up!” Do they think we’re just going to be cool with that? Imagine if it was just hint of arsenic? Just a spoon or two of of sewage?

    Fools and clowns, this mayor and the people he has hired. Get it the gas out of there, and do a much better job of keeping us informed.

  6. Posted by old pecky on

    peaceful march on city hall! move the capital!

  7. Posted by Oscare on

    Another problem lies in the City and GN not investing in the infrastructure right frm the beginning when Iqaluit became the capital. They were worried about staff housing n construction of new buildings. No wonder new construction is having hard time with connecting to the water main and or delaying land development for new construction, regardless of what type of building. When Iqaluit was being built for expansion after being selected the Capital, they failed to realize the mass expansion and influx of people moving in. So at the end of the day, the City and the GN are the main culprits here. A proper Community Plan includes investing in its exciting infrastructure

    • Posted by Ken on

      The GN has always been too busy with decentralization and spending so much money and making it much more expensive as a government that they failed to properly put badly needed infrastructure in the capital.
      The capital has expanded very quickly, population has grown quickly, but our water sewer infrastructure has fallen behind. Landfill, elder care, all the unwanted being sent here with no programs for them but the beer and wine store.
      Many issues, but with decentralization much smaller communities get so much more money per capita and making it more expensive and less productive as a whole.
      In theory it’s a good idea but in reality it’s way too expensive and unrealistic as a government. Some decentralization is needed but not in this amount.

  8. Posted by Where are the water distributions???? on

    In this article:

    “The government has not issued a do-not-consume order related to last week’s detection of fuel in the water system.”

    So where are the water distributions??? I have jugs I could fill at least…

    What is it safe for? Brushing teeth, does this impact all people? Tanked water?

    How little information we are being given is just a awful reflection on the state of local affairs.

  9. Posted by I live in the Arctic on

    no smoking in the shower, ok.

  10. Posted by Iqaluit rezident on

    I think the top person should get fired for putting Iqaluit’s residence in harms length (there are vulnerable folks / infants). The results of the test may be under Canada’s acceptable guidelines, but we should not be accepting the poor action or lack of proper action and misleading residence that the issue has been resolved.

    We should even look at the Mayor’s actions and see if he is fit to run the Capital City with current senior management.

  11. Posted by Nunavutmiuta on

    Complain, Complain and complain so more. The only reason we here in Iqaluit get so much news coverage about our water problem, comes down to Who lives here. There are so many First Nation community with greater water problem and for much longer period, they get less news coverage only because they have maybe 90% First Nations populations. It is not fair for them that we get headlines news about our water, only because of Who lives here. If we have had 90% first nation’s population here, we would not get such of news coverage and such a big deal about it.

    • Posted by Nunavummiuta on

      It doesn’t excuse the poor job the city and our Mayor/councillors have been doing with our water, putting everyone at risk.
      Yes it’s bad with the FN’s and Canada has done a terrible job and is still doing a terrible job but Iqaluit is the capital of Nunavut are these FN places the capital?
      If a capital can have this kind of situation and on going bases it should get a lot of news.
      Actually it’s not getting enough the mayor should be holding a online public meeting explaining himself and his staffs incompetence. Should be a town hall meeting but with Covid online would be enough.

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