Iqaluit reservoir full, no thanks to GN, says mayor

Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell says Department of Community and Government Services ‘needs a real good wakeup call’

Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell criticized the Department of Community and Government Services’ response to the Iqaluit water emergency Tuesday evening. (Photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Nunavut’s Department of Community and Government Services “needs a real good wakeup call” after failing to issue the City of Iqaluit an electrical permit to pump water into the Lake Geraldine reservoir, said Mayor Kenny Bell.

Bell directed a series of comments toward the department at Tuesday’s council meeting during chief administrative officer Amy Elgersma’s update on Iqaluit’s water emergency.

“[I’m] disappointed in their response after calling the original emergency,” Bell said.

“Quite frankly, I’m disturbed by it. These people live here and don’t understand the severity of our situation. This is a huge problem for the city.”

Community and Government Services Minister David Joanasie declined an interview request about the mayor’s coments.

On Aug. 12, the city declared a local state of emergency due to a water shortage.

Councillors passed a plan that would see the city pump water from Unnamed Lake into the Apex River and then into the Lake Geraldine reservoir. Under the plan, it would also pump more water from the river than is normally allowed.

CGS has the authority to grant the permit that allows for this to happen, but due to “ridiculous asks” it was never issued, Bell said

Lake Geraldine is nearly filled for the winter after lots of rainfall in August. The city was also able to pump water from the Apex River. (File photo by Dustin Patar)

Instead, he said, the city had to turn its attention to pumping water only from the Apex River. Elgersma said there was more rainfall than expected near the end of summer, and that helped buoy reservoir and river levels.

Lake Geraldine is nearly filled to the brim now: Elgersma said 111.12 out of 111.3 metres above sea level is filled, with that last bit of room purposely left to account for rainfall and early snowmelt.

“The city’s in good shape going into winter,” she said, adding that pumping ended Sept. 19 and equipment is being taken down.

In an email response to Nunatsiaq News’ request for an interview with Joanasie, an unidentified CGS spokesperson said the department’s chief electrician — who also was not named — tried to ensure the water pumping operation would be conducted safely.

However, the spokesperson said, the city didn’t do what the electrician asked for. The department did not say what these requests were.

“The city withdrew their application after they were able to acquire their target volume of water from the Apex River,” the spokesperson said in the email.

Prior to that, however, CGS did a number of things to aid the city in filling the reservoir, such as lending it equipment and expediting permit reviews, the spokesperson said.

During the council meeting, neither Elgersma nor Bell offered more information on how that process unfolded.

The city did not respond to Nunatsiaq News’ questions about any issues that came up regarding the electrical permit.

Elgersma did say during the meeting that some of CGS’s requirements included needing parts that couldn’t be bought off the shelf in town, down south or in Europe.

She said the city had pumping infrastructure in place what other Nunavut communities and mines have, but was held to a different standard.

Coun. Romeyn Stevenson asked what it will cost the city to set up and tear down a water pumping system — pipes, pumps, hoses and more — that was never used.

Elgersma said she didn’t have a dollar amount yet but would look into it.

Coun. Kimberly Smith asked if the permitting issue would arise again in the future when Unnamed Lake becomes the city’s second water source.

Elgersma said it will be difficult to work around over the next couple of years, but now that engineers on the city’s side know what CGS wants it can be worked into the long-term plan.

In the email, the CGS spokesperson called the department’s response “prompt and effective” and said CGS would reach out to the city to find out what it would like done differently in the future.

Share This Story

(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by Mayor Bell “needs a real good wakeup call” on

    The City of Iqaluit, the Mayor and Council “needs a real good wakeup call” to quote Bell. Inspectors normally dont give permits over safety, environmental or lack of compliance of legislative processes such as “codes”. The fact that the City cannot meet these bare minimums is laughable. It means either their staff or the overpriced consultants they hired don’t know the safety requirements.

    Also lets put the cards on the table. The reason the City declared an emergency was not the fact that the reservoir needed water to be pumped to it, but because they didn’t file permits applications to the Waterboard on time. They used the emergency to bypass the regular process which most other Hamlets in Nunavut seem to be able to follow.

    So Mayor Bell before blasting CGS, maybe you should look at the cCty’s own staff and leadership who does not seem to know how to follow standard processes…..

    • Posted by Worst on

      Is this guy running again? I’m surprised he was capable of filling out the paperwork the first time. This has been the worst leader Iqaluit us seen.

  2. Posted by A fool’s errand on

    You keep doing the same thing an yet expect a different result!! How about you actually fix the problem and stop putting the same old bandage on it. The current reservoir isn’t large enough to accommodate the growing population, which is what the city has been saying over and over again. This problem has been on the floor for as long as I’ve been here, which is over 30 years and the amount of water that’s wasted is unacceptable!! It’s time to put your money where your mouth is &
    come up with a real solution!!

  3. Posted by Bob Lee on

    Aging water pump stations are breaking down on some municipalities in Nunavut and Hamlets don’t have the funds to replace them. Lack of actions by CGS are also part of the problem but it’s up to CAOs/SAOs to make sure Hamlets are operational year after year.

  4. Posted by Think About It on

    I’m glad the GN is there to be the “whipping boy” for all the city’s problems, if it doesn’t work or we are short, blame the GN. I am normally a Kenny fan, but this is unacceptable. Can you imagine the headlines if CGS never requested those “ridiculous asks” and a work was injured, the City would have been up in arms about CGS not caring about the City’s employees. The job of the inspector is to ensure the situation is safe.
    This declared emergency has been going on for how many years? How many liters are being lost to known leaks that refused to be repaired, to homes that do not have proper water meters etc?
    The City is the only tax generating community in Nunavut, these taxes are to pay for the operational and development requirements of the city, CGS receives a small amount of money to provide the same for the other 24 communities, and the city wants the GN to take from the other 24 to help with a preventable “emergency”; please.
    You know there will be a water emergency in 2023, so start getting your permits and licensees in order over the winter so you are ready to go in 2023.

  5. Posted by Umingmak on

    I wasn’t a fan of Redfern, but she was Winston Churchill in comparison to Bell. At this point, I’m pretty sure that a dog would be more accountable than Bell has been.

  6. Posted by Blame game on

    Kenny bell, same song, different day. Lost cause. We need a new mayor. One that can take responsibility and accountability and move forward. This is not a leader

  7. Posted by sorta Northerner on

    Blast the government that gives the city operational dollars, smart man he is… YUUUP!


Comments are closed.