Iqaluit asks GN to cover $1.5M in water-crisis expenses

Council-approved water rebate accounts for nearly $1M in expenses from Oct. 12 to 31

City workers draw water from the Sylvia Grinnell River in Iqaluit Friday morning. Iqaluit council says its ongoing water emergency cost the city $1.5 million over a nearly three-week period in October, money it has asked the Government of Nunavut to provide through an emergency management fund. (File photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

By David Lochead

Iqaluit city council is asking the Government of Nunavut to cover the city’s expenses for the water crisis that totals just over $1.5 million over nearly a three-week period.

Councillors unanimously agreed Friday to make the application to the territory’s Municipal Request for Assistance Program.

The period the expenses incurred are between when the water emergency officially began on Oct. 12 to Oct. 31.

Rebates for water bills in the city make up a majority of the expenses, at just over $965,000. Other large expenses include approximately $190,000 in water-cleaning services from Qikiqtaaluk Environmental; $43,000 in overtime for city staff; $197,000 for an investigation, supplies and planning from engineering company WSB; and $36,000 for water jugs, pails and lids from Uline.

The city also received $38,000 in funding for water containers from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the federal government.

Mayor Kenny Bell said city council is expected to approve water-bill rebates until the crisis is over.

As well, he said that water expenses the city incurred in October will continue at the current rate but he hopes that will not be for much longer.

Bell added the city submitted its report on Iqaluit’s drinking water to Nunavut’s chief public health officer Thursday, stating that the city’s testing of the water supply met the Canadian health guidelines and that the CPHO will review the information.

Earlier in the week, the city’s chief administrative officer, Amy Elgersma, said the city was awaiting Dr. Michael Patterson’s approval to lift the ‘do-not-consume’ order issued on Oct. 12. That order remains in place until the CPHO lifts it.

But late Friday afternoon, the Nunavut government issued a statement, saying the Health Department “out of an abundance of caution” has commissioned a third party to assess the city’s field investigation report submitted to the chief public health officer on Thursday.

While the Canadian Armed Forces is setting up two reverse osmosis water purification units drawing water from the Sylvia Grinnell River, the military’s assistance in providing clean water is not expected to reduce the city’s costs, Bell said. It will help reduce the Government of Nunavut’s reliance on shipping in bottled water, he added.

Bell also said he expects the Government of Nunavut will need help from the federal government to help cover costs of the water crisis.

“They have limitations on what they can do, just like us,” Bell said.

In 2021, the city’s operating revenues were around $51 million.

On Twitter, Coun. Kyle Sheppard noted the city’s operating budget is less than the Ottawa Public Library’s.

“It’s crazy that we operate on that amount of money,” Bell said.

Bell said the city is carrying forward with an investigation of why the city’s north tank in its water treatment facility got contaminated with hydrocarbons, as well as undertaking an environmental assessment of the land surrounding the tank.

For the future, Bell said the city needs a new water treatment facility.

“There’s no reason [for a water treatment facility] to be beside a power plant.”

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(11) Comments:

  1. Posted by Help Us Kyle Sheppard on

    Kyle Sheppard loves Baffinland so much he wants to bring a motion supporting Baffinland when the mine has nothing to do with Iqaluit. Maybe he can ask Baffinland for water money.

    • Posted by What!? on

      What do you mean the mine has nothing to do with Iqaluit! Jobs and contracts! There are people from Iqaluit and other parts of Baffin and Nunavut that work at this mine.
      I few vocal people from Pond who lost some contract seem to be opposing phase 2 unless they get what they want in the contracts.

  2. Posted by Brandon on

    Please step down Kenny!

    Let’s Go Kenny!!!

  3. Posted by New Building Money on

    I don’t think you needed to commit millions of dollars for fresh office space, now the City is crying poor. You don’t staff most of the positions but are still in deficit from one month of not collecting water bills. Wow. Mismanagement.

  4. Posted by Reality on

    How out of touch with reality can this City Council get?
    Iqaluit residents have had tap water for laundry and for bathing. They have also had bottled water for drinking and cooking.
    But, for some reason, the relatvely well off residents of Iqaluit, those who own their own homes or rent at market or rent staff housing, should not have to contribute to the cost of water operations in October.
    Where is the money supposed to come from? Will the mayor refund his annual salary? Are City of Iqaluit employees expected to work for free?
    The City wants all the resindents of Nunavut to pay for Iqaluit’s water. If the residents of Iqaluit asked for this water rebate, shame on them and their idea of entitlement. If it’s Kenny’s idea, to help him get re-elected. shame on Kenny.
    Ottawa has helped. The GN has helped. NTI has helped. Private citizens have helped. But the idea of the relatively rich residents of Iqaluit not paying their water bill is just such a disconnect from reality.

  5. Posted by Yup on

    GN shouldnt need to pay anything, ppl still using that water for other things than drinking/eating. everyone has been so dependent on handouts, everybody needs to wean themselves of relying on another (being an organization or person)

    • Posted by Huvaguuq on

      How many millions has GN already paid? That was money our have not communities were going to fight over to pay for our mold clean up, water trucks, gravel roads. How long was the army waiting for direction on where to pump water from?

  6. Posted by Homeowner on

    As a homeowner we get hit with everything the city does or screws up on, if the GN won’t cover this cost guess who will pay for it later, thats right us homeowners.

    How many council members are homeowners? Is our Mayor a homeowner? What ever the city needs they increase property tax for homeowners, water fees, garbage, cut services.

    I have a feeling we will be paying for this in the long run.

    • Posted by Renters pay, too on

      Everyone pays water tax. Homeowners pay directly. Renters payindirectly, through their rent. But only home-owners get to vote for special expenses such as that swimming pool. It’s nice, especially for the kids, but it sure is expensive. And building it deprived the City of the funds it needed for things such as developing new building lots.

      • Posted by Homeowners on

        Yes renters pay a percentage of the overall taxes and fees but they do not pay as much as homeowners, the last ten years the property tax has gone way up, again how many of the council members are homeowners?
        Can someone list them off? Or are most of them in subsidized units?

  7. Posted by When will it stop? on

    I guess that bougie new office building may not have been the best idea? Homeowners will be paying for this councils mistakes for a long time. Chalk it up to another harebrained idea of this mayor’s term. I think a ‘how not to do’ book is in order as well…it’s gonna be a long one LOL

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