Iqaluit residents frustrated over water contamination concerns

‘I’m worried about what happens to your body after drinking petroleum hydrocarbons for 5 days’

Iqaluit residents line up to fill jugs with clean water supplied from the Sylvia Grinnell River on Wednesday afternoon. (Photo by David Lochead)

By David Lochead

Iqaluit residents expressed frustration as they lined at the Iqaluit Centennial Library up to fill jugs with clean water supplied from the Sylvia Grinnell River on Wednesday afternoon.

The fill station is operated by the city, following Tuesday’s announcement that petroleum is believed to have been found in the city’s water supply. That night city council declared a state of emergency. Residents had complained since early October about tap water smelling like gasoline, and the city had initially responded by saying the water was safe to drink.

Elizabeth Katcheea was among those waiting in line for water at the library. She said she’s stressed out by the possible water contamination. She stopped drinking city water on Tuesday, but had been doing so over the past week.

“I’m worried about what happens to your body after drinking petroleum hydrocarbons for five days,” Katcheea said.

Katcheea said she has had an upset stomach for five days, but is also worried as a mother, as her son has been coughing recently.

Nicole Etitiq said she came from work to stand in line to get water for herself, friends and family. She said is nervous about the water she has been consuming — for example, she cooked with tap water on Tuesday.

“That’s a little alarming,” Etitiq.

Etitiq also said she has had a headache for the past few days.

She also worries about the more vulnerable members in the community, such as pregnant women, elders and people who are not able to get their own water.

Linda Guitard said she is not worried about her own ability to get clean water. But she said she does worry about hospitality workers. If restaurants, which rely on water, have to close, that means their employees won’t be able to work because of the water problems, she said.

In the grocery store, Karen Logan said the lack of clean water is affecting the food she buys, such as vegetables that need to be washed.

“There’s so many things I won’t buy now,” Logan said.

Connie Naulaq said she has been experiencing headaches over the past week.

Naulaq also said she is looking after three dogs and attributes the water to the dogs’ case of diarrhea.

Both Etitiq and Naulaq said they were upset the city did not listen to residents who had complained about their tap water smelling like gasoline over the past week.

“I hope moving forward they listen to the city’s citizens,” Etitiq said.

Mayor Kenny Bell has said the city’s water passed tests when initial complaints were received. But on Tuesday, workers at the city’s water treatment plant found indications of petroleum contamination.

Naulaq said she has clean water now, but is concerned about the near future.

“In a day or two what am I going to do?” Naulaq said.

The city has said that anyone who needs special assistance to access clean water can call their water hotline at 867-979-5603. Water now being distributed by the city is under a boil water advisory.

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(21) Comments:

  1. Posted by monty sling on

    Retailers are going to make a killing on bottle water, prices sure to go sky high on bottle water due to high “demand”…can’t keep in stock excuses… Iqaluit will make it through, the residences always find ways through difficult times. Always able to handle emergencies.

  2. Posted by smelly water on

    People started complaining of petroleum sent in the water 3 days after the big water maintenance in september

  3. Posted by Taima on

    Nunavut election coming up real soon.
    Nunatsiaq news has nothing about it.
    Some candidates put up a few signs.
    Other than that, the candidates seem silent, too.
    No one has knocked on our door.
    No one has sent a flyer.
    Good news, they are not making promises they won’t keep.
    Bad news, silence is deafening.
    Sure seems like no one is interested.
    Maybe its time to return to traditional Inuit self government.

    • Posted by Ahaidlaa on

      “HERE, HERE!”

    • Posted by Ola on

      They’re not silent, they’re building their campaign by helping with delivering water.
      And advertising it all over FB

    • Posted by Fantasy and fiction on

      Can you outline what traditional Inuit self government might look like in the modern world? I am sure I am not the only one who might be interested. I am skeptical that you could do that though.

    • Posted by Pipe Dreams on

      The population is far too large and dispersed for such systems.

  4. Posted by Ola on

    Have water trucks been cleaned?
    Seems like disinfecting with chlorine is not an answer. Doesn’t water already have chlorine? And yet that didn’t kill petroleum.

    After ready emergency plans and guidelines that other places have in place (ahem not City of Iqaluit), the methods used to clean water do not involve use of chlorine.
    Also, they mention that showering and washing dishes and food with contaminated water are not safe either.

    So many questions… So little answers…
    Oh wait that’s right City have posted FAQs that don’t answer anything.

    • Posted by Crystal Clarity on

      Petroleum is not a living thing. It’s hydrocarbons + (mostly hydrogen, carbon, small amounts of nitrogen and sulfur, oxygen, trace amounts of iron. nickel, copper).

      You can’t kill it with chlorine like a virus or bacteria. It’s not COVID-19

      They need to find the spot where it is entering the water system and fix it.

      • Posted by Grot on

        I’d like to know if the trucks were cleaned too. I’d also like to know why the city isn’t going to be cleaning or paying for the cleaning of the tanks of people on trucked water. We paid to have drinkable water deposited into our tanks. The city delivered gross, oily poison water for two weeks, and then delivered chlorinated river water that we have to boil on top of the contaminated leftovers in the tank. If the city came and reversed the sewage into my house, they’d be paying to fix it. I know they didn’t mean to do it, but they did it. So why should I have to pay to fix it or pretend like everything is fine?

  5. Posted by Better management on

    Time for a new SAO. One with the right skills and experience.

    • Posted by hermann kliest on

      NO, not SAO, it’s time for a new city foreman…this position is ultimately responsible for the city works…this position failed.

    • Posted by Big Bad Bert on

      Iqaluit’s SAO is both highly qualified and experienced for the job and we are very lucky to have her.

  6. Posted by Smarty Pants on

    Why are these comments so silly? Have people read any of the Provinces health guidelines?

    People, please stop the crazy! It’s not that bad, there are allowable limits in guidelines

    • Posted by Stop on

      Either you don’t live here or you are brand new. Just the fact that you referred to Nunavut as a province shows your ignorance. The guidelines are useless right now because the tests had to be flown out and we won’t get the results for four more days. That means right now they don’t know what kind of fuel the water is contaminated with and they don’t know how much fuel is seeping in. And if people don’t trust the guidelines and recommendations, a lot had to do with the fact that the message has been “it’s perfectly safe, keep drinking it,” rather than “we don’t know what the problem is, so be cautious.”

  7. Posted by Bert Rose on

    First we had face book experts on Covid.
    Now we have Facebook experts on hydrocarbons.
    I am curious about what is causing odors in water but rather doubtful that it could be fuel oil or gasoline.
    When the test results come back we will know but at this point it is just speculation.

    • Posted by nis on

      Why are you doubtful?

    • Posted by Soothsayer on

      Tell us more NN comment section expert, what do you see as the source of these odors then?

    • Posted by Tricky on

      I’m white and even I’ve had enough of your whitesplaining way of expressing yourself. The city said they thought it’s fuel. People who heard that aren’t jumping to conclusions. They’re reacting to what the people in charge said, the people who got a whiff and a look up close. It isn’t bacteria, and we know that because tests for bacteria are the only tests that were carried out in town, and they all came back negative.
      Oh, and now it’s been confirmed it is fuel.

  8. Posted by Mickey Delman on

    Just wanted to say we’re saddened, and shocked to hear this news happening to you folks. I’m unclear on the original news comment “Mayor Kenny Bell has said the city’s water passed tests” Does this mean tests were run that showed no contamination but now in a matter of days/weeks there is significant contamination of some sort of fuel?

  9. Posted by nooops on

    It means people complained about their water smelling like fuel, and the city did testing, not for fuel contaminates, but for bacterial contamination. But they didn’t tell us that part until a few days ago. They just said all the tests came back fine, and said the water was perfectly safe, based on their tests for bacterial contamination. It sounds like when they eventually did take samples to send out to test for fuel contaminates, they didn’t collect or handle the sample properly, so it wasn’t useful. It wasn’t until they discovered the tank of stink water that they had proper testing done for fuel contaminates. Before that moment, residents were given the impression that the city had been testing for fuel contamination all along and that the tests were normal, and whatever it was we were smelling and tasting wasn’t hydrocarbons, so drink up.

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