‘Trace’ levels of contamination entered Iqaluit’s water system, says city

People reported Thursday evening that the smell of fuel had returned to their tap water

The City of Iqaluit received complaints overnight Thursday from residents about a fuel smell in their tap water. (File photo)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

People in Iqaluit are again reporting that their water smells of fuel.

A post about the smell appeared in the Facebook group Iqaluit Public Service Announcements Thursday night. It had garnered more than 50 comments as of Friday morning, including several people reporting the same thing.

The City of Iqaluit issued a news release Friday in response to the reports, saying “a trace amount of hydrocarbons entered the distribution system” on Monday and Wednesday.

“It is believed that potential remaining hydrocarbons may have entered the water supply and need to be flushed out of the distribution,” says the release.

The city has begun flushing, and the release asks people to run their taps for 20 minutes before 6 p.m.

Recreation director Stephanie Clark said in an email that the amount of fuel contamination was below the low-alarm limit for the city’s detection system. That limit is lower than the national drinking water safety guidelines.

Public health has been made aware of the reports, Clark said.

The City of Iqaluit has just come out of a two-month water emergency, after people were told to stop drinking their tap water in October because of fuel contamination at the water treatment plant. That advisory was lifted Dec. 10.

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.

No detectable levels of fuel were found in the city’s water distribution system after this incident, states the release.

Nunavut’s Health Department released a statement reminding Iqalummiut to boil river water before consumption, without referring to the city’s investigation of the fuel odour in the water.

The news release, issued at 4 p.m. Friday, tells residents to boil river water for a minimum of one minute before using it for consumption, including washing fruits and vegetables, and brushing teeth.

Neither the city nor the Government of Nunavut has said if the tap water is safe to drink.

The Health Department did not immediately respond to Nunatsiaq News’ request for comment.

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(45) Comments:

  1. Posted by Speak Up Council! on

    This is concerning! If this were any other Community in Canada, the council members in a regular session would be asking the Administration WTF is going on?

    Let’s be realistic Council only knows about what Administration tells them. Nowhere on the “Water Facts” timeline until October 12th did the council meet. Why was Council not asking for a special meeting the week before when smells of fuel first were reported by the community?
    When they did meet on October 12th, they went directly in-camera with legal counsel for almost an hour……. when they came out of camera, not a single question was asked to the CAO or staff by any members of Council.

    Read the minutes here:
    https://www.iqaluit.ca/sites/default/files/23._minutes_-_emergency_city_council_meeting_23_october_12_2021_eng.pdf

    This is concerning. Council is supposed to be the Publics check and balance in open session meetings. Council not questioning Administration in PUBLIC proceedings is not transparent. I hope the GNs full investigation into this looks at the lack of oversight Council has over Administration. If it is demonstrated that they are holding information back from Council, Council needs to take action; otherwise, they are complicit in the negligence that resulted in the water crisis.

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  2. Posted by nitro on

    Out of an abundance of caution, the City is recommending residents don’t drink the tapwater, until the issue has been sorted out.

    No, wait. That was last time.

    No, wait. Last time they did nothing until it became abundantly clear that residents had been consuming contaminated water for weeks. Surely they learned from that and are doing things differently this time though, right?

    Seems like that’s a hard no.

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  3. Posted by Referrendum? on

    Is the town able to request to Election Nunavut a referendum or plebiscite to remove the current council? They are supposed to be the eyes and ears of the general public questioning the actions of City Staff and they are not doing that?

    Time for us to have them all removed!

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    • Posted by Vote to move the Capitlal on

      Lets vote to have Rankin the Capital of Nunavut and move everything over. Iqaluit obviously cannot handle it! The capital should have been here anyway!

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      • Posted by Hahaha on

        That’s a good one, I haven’t laughed so hard in a while, I think some from Rankin think too highly of themselves and not look at all the short comings they have.
        From cargo, Inuit organizations and the GN offices there, many many issues, please look in the mirror before pointing fingers. How’s that yellow/brown water that circulates in the spring time?

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        • Posted by In Rankin on

          Everyplace will have their problems but Rankin does have the infrastructure to build on and Iqaluit doesn’t. Our (rarely) brown water is not lined with fuel, our Inuit Organizations work well with the Mines in the region and cargo does need work but is still functioning. Rankin has a bit more going for it than what you believe. I don’t think it’s such a far fetched idea to move.
          Stay Safe Nunaqatiks
          p.s. Our region hockey is more exciting 😉

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          • Posted by Hahaha on

            Yeah just keep telling yourself that, outside of Rankin no one thinks so, actually it’s the other way around, thank god it’s not the capital. Sorry to burst your bubble.
            How long has that Yellow/Brown water been a problem, a decade now? Also what infrastructure? One gas station, no real hospital, not enough appointments, you would need to multiply four times what you got to be on par with Iqaluit, there’s about 8,000 people here.
            Enjoy your hockey.

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            • Posted by In Rankin on

              We do have a lot of room for building on not like Iqaluit; how much money was spent so far on your water problem? Only for it to happen again within a couple months. Who knows how much more will thrown at it. Becoming the capital doesn’t mean everyone from there would move here !?! We do enjoy our hockey, you enjoy your lack of communication from the city and enjoy your water.

              • Posted by Iqalumiu on

                Feel lucky Rankin was not selected as the capital, Rankin would have seen around 5,000 people maybe more move there from the GN and Feds offices.
                Rankin would be overrun by other people like what happen here in Iqaluit, voting in mayor council not from Rankin, mlas not from Rankin, deciding on who can build a cabin or not, you would be outnumbered and the town you know today would be very different, less control over your town and land.
                Many transient workers coming and going. People from other places taking the jobs and you would be on the outside looking in right in your own town.
                Lots of changes happened here in Iqaluit, very difficult to see our once beautiful community to what it is today, heartbreaking. Be glad you don’t have that,

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                • Posted by In Rankin on

                  You know what? That is true, thank you Iqalumiu for the reminder. Although we have already started that here as well unfortunately but not to that extent yet. I am sure we will get there (and CamBay) eventually. In the meantime, I will enjoy what we have here.
                  I was just thinking for Nunavut as a whole it would have been a lot cheaper to build on infrastructure here than in Iqaluit and use the funds on other important things that matter to the rest of Nunavut.

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    • Posted by Northerner on

      Gather the villagers , light the torches , sharpen the pitchforks and march on city hall.

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      • Posted by Just a thought on

        With all this fuel in the water, it might be a good idea to skip lighting the torches.

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      • Posted by Uvanga on

        and it’s not light the “torches”, it’s light the ‘qulliqs”, be politically correct now… so you should have said, “light the qulliqs and sharpen the ulu’s” and march to the new city call that is not above the arena anymore.

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        • Posted by iRoll on

          A pitchfork and a ulu, or a qulliq and a torch are not the same things, have totally different uses and with this context carry completely different cultural meanings… your comment is ridiculous.

  4. Posted by I live in the Arctic on

    Wow! Will the test samples include those homes that have the fuel odourl?

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    • Posted by Ast on

      Nope! They wouldn’t come. They said they’re testing at the distribution tank.

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  5. Posted by grant on

    I live in Plateau, Iqaluit. On the evening of Jan.14, I smelled fuel of water.

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    • Posted by Clarification on

      Do you mean evening of Jan 13? Thursday? We are Jan 14 now and it is only 2:55 pm now. Making this comment not to diminish your concern but to help each other have good records of facts in case it is useful for future reference.

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  6. Posted by We should think about leaving Iqaluit on

    I am surprised anyone wants to live here anymore. Even if you feel like going for a walk in a near -50 wind chill, you have to worry if you’ll be attacked by a fox and get rabies. Can’t drink the water because it is full of fuel (which our municipal government likes to cover up). No activities to do in town because the virus is everywhere (which our territorial government seems to cover up with inaccurate numbers). Most of our Lab technicians leaving because the government couldn’t shell out an extra $50,000 dollar. (This could also be the cause of our inaccurate case counts.) Perhaps it’s time to pack up and leave and switch the capital to Rankin or Cambridge Bay (who counts their cases accurately).

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    • Posted by Bad to worse on

      Moving the capital would be pointless, running from the problem, Rankin and Cambridge have their own issues on a smaller scale and it would become larger with more people.
      From bad to worse.

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    • Posted by We should think about fixing the issues instead on

      Who does this counting that’s supposedly more accurate? The hospital in Iqaluit?

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      • Posted by Wonderous fog dragon on

        the article on Cambridge Bay doing their own counts (not Iqaluit hospital). Why don’t you sit down and read it over with a nice cup of brewed fuel water tea?

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        • Posted by Eyes rolling on

          Just relax! Good for you to do your own counts hope it’s accurate. So nice to see the territory comes together like this and supports each other 🙄

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    • Posted by Counselor Fawcett Left…. on

      Maybe councillor Fawcett saw what was actually going on and decided to skip town! Shortest councillor appointment ever! One the plus side if people start leaving maybe the home prices will get a hydrocarbon discount!

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  7. Posted by Step down little man on

    So does the real time monitoring work or not work? City has been feeding us a bunch of crap to try to recover from this and has taken us for fools. Here we are Again. Where is the mayor?

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  8. Posted by Northener on

    So what do we drink while they conduct there two week investigation

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    • Posted by PopLover4Ever on

      Me i only drink Pepsi,that might make me an odd or boring person in a Party but at least i dont have GAS

  9. Posted by Let’s Go Brandon on

    The Mayor hiding now? He is quiet on this one, when will he accept accountability? The fuel in our water is not acceptable in so many levels. It’s time for Kenny and his council members to resign!!

    LET’S GO KENNY!!!

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  10. Posted by Again…. on

    Sigh… Info on need to flush only on facebook.. not heard at lunch on cbc regional news. Diesel smell in lower Plateau too. Possibly not a straightforward issue for city and perhaps challenging for them to deal with during pandemic, but I am continuing to be grateful to citizens who are reporting the issue and Nunatsiaq News for sharing information. I think that Nunatsiaq News has really been serving the community and democracy as journalism is supposed to on this issue since October.

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    • Posted by Uvanga on

      I hope the mayor steps down. This is so unacceptable. This is what happens when a slap happy dude from the south gets elected. No vested interest for the community, just in it for himself. Does not have any idea that all of Nunavut communities listen to the Inuktitut news at noon and especially our elders who are the most vulnerable. This is disgraceful… I hope he does step down. Him and his crew has no idea at all how our communities really work.

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  11. Posted by Review needed on

    The recommendations to conduct a more complete review was required but the city dismissed it, maybe the GN needs to step in and get it done!
    We have no confidence in the city our mayor or councillors.

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  12. Posted by What a flop on

    Smart move would have been for the City to prepare for this given the situation last time. Any contingency plan in place? Mayor was too busy patting his back for a job NOT well done and now he is quieter than he has ever been. For a man who like to be free by and center, where is he? Time for him to go. Was the water ever clean? Have we been drinking fuel all this time? Can’t trust what the city says. Council have anything to say or will you just nod and smile. The mayors ship is sinking and all of you are going down with it. Not only have you be complacent, you have been reckless. Shame on all of you.

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  13. Posted by Fall from grace on

    Imagine the verbal beating Kenny bell would be giving the mayor for their response to this matter if he wasn’t the mayor! Anyone who knew this guy growing up is not surprised by this ego, his treatment of others and his incompetence. He thinks we are just catching on lol

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  14. Posted by Tired on

    Trace amounts ?? No amount of fuel is safe to consume zero ! I live in Legoland and started smelling it last night today it’s worse . I called the “water hotline” was told someone will come take a sample. Never happened. We need true leadership . Time to file a class action lawsuit ,Enough is enough

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  15. Posted by I drank it on

    Drank a lot of water last night. Throat closed and runny nose.

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  16. Posted by Help! on

    Has the city just thrown in the towel? Where is the communication, water distribution? Are we just left to fend for ourselves now? What is going on? Mayor bell, time to start providing some information. People are getting sick and are worried. Where are you? They keep saying it testing below national standards. National standards are such that you can smell and see oil in your water? This is BS! What a mess. GN needs to step in. The city has given up.

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  17. Posted by Constituent on

    This is beyond frustrating. We smell fuel in the water. The city admits there are trace amounts of fuel in the water. But then Kyle and Kenny are out there telling us to just go on using it because the levels are low? How is this in any way acceptable? We’re supposed to be cool with just drinking water with some fuel in it on an ongoing basis?

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  18. Posted by Shawn on

    GOV of NU is throwing away a lot of money to southerners and ignoring major local problems.

    Logically, they are asking to be fired by torches ands guns repeatedly.

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    • Posted by Upon reflection on

      This comment barely makes sense, but its allusions to violence alone make me wonder how it managed to be put up? Perhaps due to its incoherence? You know… how bad can it be, no one can make sense of it?

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      • Posted by Shawn on

        Its the truth..how does it not make sense?

        Your lack of understanding doesn’t impress me.

        The public housing system is fk’d up.

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