Iqaluit awaits chief public health officer’s confirmation that water is safe to drink

Decision to lift ‘do not drink’ order is up to Dr. Patterson, says CAO Amy Elgersma

A Department of Health official recommended on Oct. 8 that the City of Iqaluit hire a consultant to investigate whether a strong diesel smell at the water plant, shown here, correlated with reported smells in the water. City officials have not confirmed that ever happened. (Photo by Mélanie Ritchot)

By David Lochead

Test results show Iqaluit’s water supply meets Canadian drinking water guidelines, but the do-not-drink order remains in effect, chief administrative officer Amy Elgersma said at an emergency city council meeting on Tuesday.

“The water treatment plant is working well,” said Elgersma.

It will be up to Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, to lift the do-not-drink order, she said.

Three weeks ago the city and the Government of Nunavut Health Department told residents not to drink the tap water from the municipal water supply because it was suspected it had been contaminated with fuel. City officials, along with Patterson, confirmed that contamination in a news conference Oct. 15.

Since then, officials have released some data about hydrocarbon levels found in different parts of Iqaluit’s water treatment system, and announced workers found the suspected source of the contamination: a historic, underground fuel spill beside the treatment plant.

Last week, the city announced the installation of a monitoring system to detect hydrocarbons in the water supply.

Elgersma said the plan is to publish results from the monitoring system and other water testing on the city’s website weekly.

A group working on behalf of the city – including water experts, technicians and engineers – are working on a letter of certification to give to Patterson’s office indicating the water meets health guidelines.

Chris Puglia, a spokesperson for Nunavut’s Department of Health, said the government would then have an independent contractor review the city’s report and give feedback. Puglia said he does not know how long this process will take.

Elgersma said she hopes to have the letter ready this week, potentially tomorrow.

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(11) Comments:

  1. Posted by Flushing apartment buildings on

    The city has done a bad job of making sure apartment buildings get properly flushed. We flushed our unit as instructed by the city, but there is still the smell of oil in the water at times. I suspect it’s because other units in the same building haven’t flushed the pipes properly.
    I know some landlords did a coordinated flush of their buildings, notifying all their tenants to run the water at a specified time. That’s what the city has recommended all landlords do, but ours hasn’t and it’s the biggest landlord in Iqaluit. So my guess is there are other apartment buildings without clean water.

    • Posted by Nocleanh20anywhere on

      At the moment there is no clean water in any house or apartment, flushing or no flushing, until tests are completed, data reviewed by professionals and the water is confirmed to be safe

  2. Posted by Resident on

    The water at the arctic college still feels oily when washing hands

  3. Posted by We care for you not on

    There’s native towns that will never get clean water and you have it easy and yet you complain like children wow

    • Posted by Only the most unfortunate can complain now on

      There’s children in Africa have it worse than those native towns and they have it easy and yet they complain like children wow.
      … see? Somebody always has it worse, it doesn’t mean that people can’t be upset at another issue that is still a serious issue.

  4. Posted by Richard on

    What does “a historic, underground fuel spill beside the treatment plant” mean? Was this a few weeks ago, last month, last year, or last decade? If it’s history, give us the what, when, where, how and why!

    Before the water contamination was known the city assured residents multiple times that there was no issue, but we now know there was.

    The city started using contaminated trucks to carry river water before the nature of contamination was known. How did the city know what to clean/flush the trucks with if the nature of contamination wasn’t know until after?

    The contamination floats in water and adheres to surfaces, so if any part of the system is not completely flushed and properly cleaned it will re-introduce the contamination to the whole system.

    It seems like the city wants to fast track a decision to lift the do not consume order. Remember, despite being told by residents that there was a fuel smell, the city admitted it had not done specific tests for fuel contamination while advising water was safe, and when the city did the applicable test it wasn’t collected/transported properly. Why should residents now have confidence that the city’s own testing is accurate?

    The City of Iqaluit has lost the trust of residents. It’s a good thing the CPHO is a steady hand, because residents need that assurance to rebuild confidence.

  5. Posted by Reactive City on

    “Last week, the city announced the installation of a monitoring system to detect hydrocarbons in the water supply.”
    Seems like that was pretty quick and easy to do. Why wasn’t that monitoring system in place many moons ago?

  6. Posted by Gerald on

    Mayor bell is spending his time making a joke out of this with his friends and planning the release of a ‘book’ with all statements made against him. He thinks this is a joke. He needs to grow up and act like an adult . His ‘funny’ comments on his MAYOR Bell Facebook account are a slap in the face to residents. How did it can anyone ever take this guy seriously.

    • Posted by Yellow on

      We don’t take Kenny seriously, we just couldn’t convince anyone competent to run for the position after he spent years trashing the previous Mayor and council online.
      Now the shoe’s on the other foot he shamelessly complains about online hostility.

      • Posted by Good for a laugh on

        We don’t nor have we ever taken this guy seriously. We all have a great laugh over it. The city doesn’t have much sway over affairs. The entertainment lately coming from the mayor however is priceless. I suggest a weekly comic strip nunatsiaq news!

      • Posted by Hilarious on

        Still waiting for him to blame the water problem on the previous mayor.

        Also, the fiasco with the improper storage of vaccine records.. just wow

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