Military suspends Iqaluit water operation after wind damages tent
‘Right now everything is at a standstill,’ says military spokesperson
The Canadian military has suspended its operation to pump potable water from the Sylvia Grinnell River during the city’s ongoing water emergency, spokesperson Maj. Susan Magill says.
The call was made on Tuesday, after wind gusts of up to 100 km/h on Monday snapped the frame of a tent that was covering the tanks used for holding purified water along the river.
“Right now, everything is at a standstill,” Magill said Wednesday.
The city and Government of Nunavut ordered residents not to drink the city’s water on Oct. 12, after people complained of a fuel-like smell coming from their taps. It was later confirmed diesel fuel had contaminated the city’s water supply.
Magill said the military is working on a plan to resume the operation it began earlier this month.
Part of the response to Iqaluit’s water emergency included calling in the Canadian Armed Forces to run two temporary water purification units to supply city-run filling stations where Iqaluit residents are filling jugs of drinkable water.
Two of the four water tanks are still working while the other two froze and will need repairs, Magill said. While the frame of the tent used to shelter the tanks from the cold snapped, half of the tent is usable and can keep cold air out well enough, Magill added. As well, the tent is no longer at its full height and is being held down by rocks, she said.
The immediate plan will be to have the damaged tent hold and heat the two remaining water tanks, Magill said.
“It’s not a perfect solution,” she said.
Magill couldn’t say when the military’s water operation will resume, but she said water is being chlorinated in preparation for the operation to restart.
Replacement parts for the water purification operation will be flown to Iqaluit on the next military flight, Magill said, but she said she did not know when that will be.
The Canadian Armed Forces’ Operation Lentus set up its water purification unit in October to create potable water for people in Iqaluit to drink and use during Iqaluit’s water emergency, which is now in its seventh week.
The military set up its temporary purification units in October.
When the military toured the operation on Nov. 10, Sgt. Matthew Dimma said the purification unit was delivering 44,000 litres a day to the city.
The water purification units have never operated this far north, Magill said.
“We knew there were going to be challenges,” she added.
Regarding those challenges Magill said the military’s goal is to complete what it is tasked to do and if something gets broken, they try to fix the problem or a new plan is made.
“That’s how we function and that’s how we’ll continue until we’re told we’re not needed anymore and to end the mission.”
The water purification units became operational on Nov. 9 and have been delivering potable water to the city’s water filling stations.
The operation is scheduled to end on Dec. 1, but can be extended. Initially, the operation was supposed to end on Nov. 17 but got extended two weeks.
City spokesperson Aleksey Cameron told Nunatsiaq News the city is “currently making alternative arrangements to ensure that water refill depots remain open and have sufficient water available for residents.”