Military suspends Iqaluit water operation after wind damages tent

‘Right now everything is at a standstill,’ says military spokesperson

The tent pictured in front had its frame snapped by strong winds on the night of Nov. 22. The operation is currently suspended as a result. (Photo by David Lochead)

By David Lochead

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.”

Share This Story

(38) Comments:

  1. Posted by snat on

    3PM and still no notice from the city. How hard would it have been for the city to throw up a PSA saying the water at the fill stations aren’t currently available? People walked, took taxis all over the place for nothing.

    • Posted by Scott on

      The article states that the depots are still open and sufficient water is available.

      • Posted by plum on

        No, it says “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.”

        The depots are not opened. I know this because I just went to two of them and there is still no activity, and there is still no notice from the city. I understand that there will be shutdowns and unexpected delays sometimes, but once again, it is the lousy or non-existent communication from the city that is making some people feel frustrated. We are a tough lot and can deal with just about anything, but when the city goes quiet or doesn’t correct its messaging, it makes it impossible to roll with the punches because we don’t know where the punches are coming from.

    • Posted by Hermes on

      Woah ease up, the Mayor is in Ottawa

      • Posted by Sled dog on

        What is it with IQ mayor’s and Ottawa. Didn’t a previous mayor spend a whole lot of time in Ottawa

        • Posted by Mayor lobbies Ottawa for money on

          The Mayor going to Ottawa makes a lot of sense. We need a ton of federal money to help fix the water crisis. Let’s hope he comes back with suitcases of cash. It takes more than one meeting for big decisions to be made so we hope to see Kenny make more phone calls, more trips and more schmoozing because anyone with half a brain knows getting big bucks means lots of lobbying in Ottawa. Go Kenny Go!

          • Posted by Not up for the task on

            Suitcases full of cash? I won’t hold my breath. Just like I won’t hold my breath for for accountability at the onset of this mess. Suitcases of cash will take strategy and the ability to get the right people to the table which I am not confident our mayor knows how to do. Taking selfie’s with people does not imply productive conversations.

          • Posted by Need a Plan to Get Funding on

            What engineering, feasibility, or quote is the Mayor using to ask for money? Ottawa will not cut a blank cheque to the City, and the current mismanagement of its current assets is not giving the Feds any confidence in the cities ability to even take on this work. Going without a plan and a strategy to ask for money is a waste of time. Mayor Bell does not know if the City needs $1, or $1billion. We do not know if the distribution systems needs to be replaced entirely and what that would even cost!

            So Mayor Bell, get back to Iqaluit for the hard work. Otherwise just resign and stay in Ottawa for the photo ops!

        • Posted by Ghost of Dumpcano on

          Kenny constantly bitched about the previous Mayor’s lobbying efforts in Ottawa but she successfully brought in tens of millions for a new dump and men’s shelter among other successes.
          Our current Mayor doesn’t even seem to be getting meetings with the people who cut the checks, let alone bringing home the bacon.
          So, when’s our new dump opening?

        • Posted by siksik on

          He was down to check out Ottawa’s great train service for some tips on communication.

    • Posted by Snat on

      Just about noon on Thursday, and no updated notice about today’s water availability. There’s one about yesterday’s water availability, and that went out at the end of the day, just before 5pm, C’mon, city. If you want people to have confidence in your ability to handle the big stuff, at least get little things like communication in order.

  2. Posted by Inuk guy on



    • Posted by James on

      Well, it IS Canada’s military. Jeez.

    • Posted by uvanga on

      They are from the south. They are freezing. They are not even provided actual winter parkas to work in the weather in the arctic. I can just hear dem complaining “dam weadder in eeqooaaluk, its freeding”

    • Posted by Icee on

      Can’t you read? Military said the tent are there to keep the cold outside so the water don’t freeze. At least someone helping us…

    • Posted by Kenn Harper on

      Good Lord. How would they ever defend us in a war? I can see the headline. CANADA SURRENDERS TO INVADER AFTER TENT COLLAPSES.

      • Posted by Moonrock on

        When was the last time you open a book? Read about Canada history maybe it will change your way of tinking.

  3. Posted by snat on

    Thank you Nunatsiaq for explaining what is going on. Why we didn’t hear it from the city first is beyond me. They left it to the clickbait tabloid cesspit. But thank you for keeping us informed and for continuing to dig and ask questions.

    • Posted by Mayor’s got this on

      Don’t worry, the Mayor’s working hard on this file….(checks his twitter account)….eating in a fancy byward market restaurant with Jagmeet Singh…

      Hmm odd strategy. Was Leslyn Lewis not available to meet with him?

      • Posted by Dang it on

        You mean selfies and shameless name dropping aren’t going to solve this issue? Dang, i thought the mayor had this completely under control. Back to the drawing board for a photo op.

  4. Posted by Trust the Data on

    Why isn’t the GN lifting the restriction on the water. The test results have come back clean for a month now & meet Canadian standards. There’s no reason to fear the water in the tap!!!

  5. Posted by River Rat on

    It’s a good thing the city was being so stingy with bottled water the past week or so, else we’d be in more of a multi-leveled crisis than we are already in.

    • Posted by TP on

      Obviously the City is going to give out set quantities of water. Did everyone forget what happened with toilet paper at the onset of COVID? Shelves were empty because a few greedy people took it all. Thank god they aren’t letting residents do a free for all on bottled water.

      • Posted by And on

        …and the Northmart fire and the first day the water emergency was announced…

  6. Posted by Federal Bureaucrat on

    I’ve got to say, as a desk jockey for the feds, I am completely humiliated. The fact that our Military has to suspend operations for a broken tent is absurd. Is this the kind of woke culture Trudeau has brought us?

    Suspending operations for a broken tent sounds like something a corporate airline would do to avoid serving rubber chicken meals during covid because the flight attendants would prefer to put their feet up and read Chatelaine or Trudeau’s biography rather than serve customers squished customers who have already overpaid for no good reason.

    C’mon, Man!

    • Posted by Why u dum on

      Good thing we are not under attack….broken tent would mean surrender ……really

    • Posted by Oh for god’s sake… on

      it was a storm that snapped the steel frame of the heavy duty tent. You make it sound like they had a crack in the pole of a kids play tent. They’re suspending operations because they need to repair the water tanks that froze, and then repair the tent so the tanks don’t freeze again.

      Also, what in the name of fake outrage does Trudeau or ‘woke culture’ have to do with any of this? What the heck even is ‘woke culture’?

  7. Posted by amai? on

    Fickle? Iqaluit? Maybe Baffinland can help with all the problems now?

    • Posted by hoooboy! on

      Give a couple of older guys hammers and nails and access. Tents will wear out before they fall again.

  8. Posted by been there, man on

    put the friggin herman nelson inside and vent it. How long do you expect that to last.

  9. Posted by In Rankin on

    Hmm!? Who knew it was cold and windy in the north… They were just ill prepared for the moment; rest assured, they are preparing now 🙂 Give them credit; they came to help you out.

  10. Posted by sam on

    The armed forces are trying their best,look at BC and east coast,weather is wrecking havoc in all of canada,quit crying and grow up little whiners,learn to live with adversity and stop complaining,nobody planned this and people are trying their best.

  11. Posted by Imma nakungitok on

    That royal Canadian army. Should they know there in Eskimo country ? And we have the coldest and highest winds during the winters ? If at war they are certainly done for. Put the rangers on that program and they will figure it out traditionally and fix the major mistakes the army made. That’s what rangers are here for. We depend on our rangers more than a southern city slicker wearing fancy army uniforms. This army needs to put their brigades up and train them during crisis as such by our awesome Rangers.
    The weather beating their tents up because hey are not made for the Arctic. Probably used in Afghanistan last time.
    What they need is Weatherhaven structures made for the environment
    Good luck people hope it is remedied soon. A long winter is ahead .

    • Posted by Qaujimayukhat on

      Many years ago my uncle spoke of one who was suffering on night guard as they were those cute army parkas which don’t work in extreme cold. The ones in charge need to understand our weather and environment. Our north is not like an outdoor exercise down south.

      • Posted by Frank on

        When I came north with DOT fifty years ago the first thing I did was give away all the crap military clothing we were issued with. The locals thought that stuff was “cool” (and it was!). I started wearing what the Inuit wore and was never cold again.

    • Posted by Good point on

      I tried to post a similar comment earlier today but I guess it didn’t make it through so I’ll try again. I think it is a good point. Rangers have skills and knowledge that, combined with those of military engineers, would help a lot. Setting up a suitable tent in our environment or fixing it and other types of skills and expertise relevant to our Arctic conditions is exactly the type of support that Rangers could provide to our southern military.

  12. Posted by common sense on

    Iqaluit and wind who would have guessed. Must have been the polar vortex.
    Shame on the world class military for being so ill prepared.

  13. Posted by Yup on

    Lots of complaining over a tent, just lots of complaining in general. just know everyone who reads this that this accounts for a small percentage of us inuit. things happen, its fixable. on to the next problem and fix that too.

Comments are closed.