No timeline for bringing water treatment online in Iqaluit

City shut down plant Wednesday to investigate traces of fuel in water tanks

With Iqaluit’s water treatment plant, seen here, shut down, the city is under a boil-water advisory. Tap water is currently being taken from the Lake Geraldine reservoir through a pipe that bypasses the water treatment plant. (Photo by David Venn)

By David Lochead

City of Iqaluit officials won’t venture any guesses as to when the water treatment plant will be back online.

“I can’t even estimate at this point in time,” Coun. Kyle Sheppard said.

The plant was shut down Wednesday to allow staff to inspect the facility to find the source of recurring fuel contamination of the city’s water supply. Nunavut’s Health Department put a boil water advisory into effect shortly afterwards.

The city is currently pumping water from the Lake Geraldine reservoir through a bypass pipe that avoids contact with the tanks at the treatment plant.

City spokesperson Stephanie Clark similarly said she couldn’t offer a timeline for when the water treatment plant will be working again.

Mayor Kenny Bell declined an interview request.

Sheppard said the timeline will depend on what’s discovered by the engineers and cleaning crew who are examining the plant’s concrete water tanks.

When the city announced the shutdown of the plant, it said in a statement that a “breach” had been discovered in the plant that was believed to be the source of the previous week’s fuel contamination.

While water pumped from Lake Geraldine is bypassing the plant, it’s still being disinfected and chlorinated. The boil water advisory is a precaution, Sheppard said.

The water pumped from Lake Geraldine is also being tested for hydrocarbons, said Clark, who is the city’s recreation director.

Sheppard said that having any hydrocarbons in the water is bad, but the traces found were not a dangerous amount – 50 micrograms per litre, which is below Canadian government’s water safety guidelines of 390 micrograms per litre.

Sheppard also said the new contamination is not surprising, because when the do-not-consume order for drinking water was lifted on Dec. 10, the city did warn residents there may still be trace amounts of fuel in the water system.

David Joanasie, Nunavut’s minister of community and government services, said at a news conference Thursday his department will consider delivering water to vulnerable Iqaluit residents, but there are no plans to fly in bottled water to Iqaluit’s general population as was done during the initial water emergency.

– With files from David Venn

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(18) Comments:

  1. Posted by Why u dum on

    Has the military been called to come back? Or is to cold for then now also?

  2. Posted by T. Bert Rose on

    In all my years living above 60N, I have never been as ashamed as I am now.

  3. Posted by no time for tears on

    Mayor bell declines to comment. This man’s ego is so bruised by the comments section and the fact that nunatsiaq news is the only source of factual information , that he would rather talk to national media and decline local new outs where the majority of residents of this community get information including in INUKTITUT. What a sad sad excuse for a leader. His ego before residents…time and time again. What a joke ! Wake up people. This man is doing a terrible job and needs to go.

    • Posted by Our Choice on

      Clearly we didn’t think so at one time, or we wouldn’t have chosen him. No one thrust him upon us, he was our choice.

      Bell was a known quantity, we need to take responsibility for our choices.

      • Posted by Unfortunate on

        Unfortunately lack of municipal candidates is what led to this choice. He also talked a big game at that time in terms of transparency and turning things around at the city and he hasn’t followed through. Lack of transparency has only worsened. Until we get capable, educated, nice people stepping up to be leaders, we will continue down this road. This mayors Disillusions of grandeur have harmed the city’s reputation and the Heath and safety of residents.

  4. Posted by Nunavutmiuta on

    Here we are complaining about having to boil our water which is just fine as it is, how many first nations community all across Canada are not even able to drink there water. It is only because we are not 90% first nation population, like all the first nation community with 90% or so are first nation population, we are getting so much publicity. If I was not a first nation person I’d be so ashamed for not being one. Where is all the publicity for all the First Nation community who are in much worst situation then we are at?

  5. Posted by New job on

    Thank god this mayor has promised only one term. Will he try to be a MLA? More time trying to be famous then caring about Iqaluit. Where’s he going to work next?

  6. Posted by Undetected on

    Ok, so a councilor, not the mayor, is saying “we told you”, subtext “why are you making such a big deal out of this?”. One, just because you supposedly warned us does not mean it is not a problem. Two, what was the basis for your supposed prediction? And what does a “breach” mean? A crack in the concrete reservoir? Something else? I find the disrespectful tone of the mayor and this councilor very disheartening and it fails to address trust issues. I am aware that the city is working on the issue, and that is good, and I know these are complex issues, but at least don’t be dismissive of the citizens who express concerns; your job is to get your staff and contractors to fix the issue and reassure citizens that you are doing that, not treat them like they are annoying gnats. And there would not be so much fodder for newspapers if the issue was addressed in a more respectful way by the elected officials of the city.

  7. Posted by Southern Inuk on

    Oh stop complaining people. First Nation’s reserve are in worst situation than this. It’s getting national attention for the sake of white people living in Iqaluit, not Ikaluit.

    • Posted by Northern Inuk on

      Everyone has a right to clean drinking water! But right now at this moment, we need clean water in our community! We can’t ignore it because others have no drinking water where they live or because they have been impacted longer. I agree it’s a huge issue across Canada and I agree we need to advocate for them too but right now we need this figured out. There are Inuit here too and we have rights under the Nunavut Agreement but that said, every Canadian also has a right to clean drinking water. The City and GN have the responsibility for ensuring safe drinking water so they are accountable. So if there is something wrong with our water, that we are paying ridiculous amounts for, then we have a right to complain.

    • Posted by Only Human on

      I don’t think the fish are drinking the tap water.
      Besides, this story is getting more attention than, let’s say Okanese First Nation, because Iqaluit has a population of somewhere around 8000 people, not 300 people like Okanese.
      And… you know, Iqaluit is the Capital City of a Territory.

    • Posted by Barry on

      Enough with these “other people have it worse, stop complaining” comments.
      Just because others have it worse doesn’t mean these problems aren’t valid.

    • Posted by Southern Inuk on

      Presume that Southern Inuk is living in the south and there is *not* having to live with the problem of unsafe water and many resident no longer trusting the City or GN to manage the problem.

      Thankfully the number of First Nations communities have had their water issues resolved. In 2015 there were 162 First Nations dealing with long-term water advisories. In the last 6 years 130 First Nations communities have had their water problems fixed. The remaining 32 First Nations communities dealing with water woes. The Federal Government committed to $616.3M to support water and wastewater infrastructure.

      Plus the Government of Canada have reached an $8Billion dollar deal with First Nations to fix water infrastructure.

      Inuit and Inuit communities are not included in that $8Billion. We need ITK to work with our regions to determine what is needed to help our Inuit communities with water and wastewater infrastructure.

      NTI’s report on infrastructure determined that 86% of water treatment infrastructure is in poor condition! All you have to do is read the continuous news reports on water boil advisories throughout the year. Iqaluit’s water infrastructure fix is likely to be $500M or more when you add the water treatment plant. I suspect that if all Inuit communities water and wastewater infrastructure was to be fixed or replaced to acceptable standards it would be several Billions of dollars too.

      So the situation in Iqaluit is not all about white people when there are at least 4000 Inuit who live in Nunavut’s capital. Let’s get all our elected leaders to work together to get the big money that is needed to fix all water and wastewater infrastructure in all our Inuit communities.

  8. Posted by Engineering water gas , or oil on

    What kind of engineering does Iqaluit have for looking after the water system? It seems somewhat confusing gas, oil, or whatever else with water. Yes, people want water to drink, not fuel. It’s just ridiculous how a water system could even be in remote distance from fuel, let alone right beside it, looks like poorly engineered.

    • Posted by nemrode on

      They have no engineering department and they outsource the work to a new company based in Ottawa. all the problems started 3 years ago when they were brought in by the actual CAO. The CAO does not know enough to know that she does not know and wants to be involved in all decisions.
      This is the root of the problems, just ask around

  9. Posted by Confused on

    The Mayor doing national media but refuses to be interviewed by local media? When the Mayor isn’t available usually the Deputy Mayor steps in. So why is Councillor Kyle Sheppard doing more City comms than the Mayor or Deputy Mayor? Why is the Director of Recreation the City spokesperson instead of the SAO? Where is the City at in hiring a Director of Public Works? Who is the water treatment plant operator and are they certified?

    Certified operators are responsible for performing such duties as: conducting operational checks; adjusting, testing, or evaluating a process that controls the effectiveness or efficiency of a drinking water subsystem or wastewater facility; adjusting or directing flow, pressure, or quality of water or wastewater.

  10. Posted by Transparency riiiight on

    Why has the City stopped publishing water test results? Even though those results didn’t make sense according to Nunatsiaq News experts because incomplete or inadequate but it was something.

    The City website re water testing shows N/D (nothing detected) on December 16th and January 11th.

    Yet, the City admitted there was contamination on December 16th due to maintenance but this is not disclosed by City until January 6th.

  11. Posted by lots of stuff spilled and buried on

    When the utilidor extension was being installed in lower base circa 2002 there were signs of oil film flowing in the ground water. Could this be a source of contamination with perhaps the recirc lines picking up some of this. There are waste drums from fuel storage buried all over the place. Go to Innuksuk High School hopefully some of the historical photos are still on the walls showing thousands upon thousands of 45 gallon fuel drums. Were they all drained, before being crushed and buried. No. Just some observations of a senile old timer no need to pay attention

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