Oil spill near Clyde River water source went unreported for months
Water is safe to drink says senior administrative officer; Health Department spokesperson
An oil spill in Clyde River that went unreported for nine months has contaminated the hamlet’s raw water source.
Jerry Natanine, the community’s senior administrative officer, told Nunatsiaq News he was told about the spill when it happened, but only found out about the water contamination three weeks ago.
He said hamlet workers finished cleaning the spill on Aug. 5 by shovelling the contaminated gravel and using an absorbent material to soak up the oil from Water Lake, where residents get their potable water.
The spill — which he estimated to be less than 20 litres — happened after a pipe carrying hydraulic oil burst in a water truck. It occurred about six metres from the lake.
“All of it ended up on the gravel, but it seeped down to the lake,” Natanine said.
The contamination wasn’t cleaned up immediately because the hamlet was facing other problems at the time, such as high levels of snow and blizzards.
“They just couldn’t get to it,” he said.
Clyde River had an especially harsh winter, with blizzards starting in November and persisting into February. The hamlet declared a local state of emergency early this year because its snow-removal equipment broke down.
Health Department spokesperson Chris Puglia said the hamlet did not report the spill to the territory’s Health or Environment Department and no residents complained about the water quality.
“Neither department became aware of the incident until inquiries were made following the request for information from Nunatsiaq News,” Puglia said.
He said an environmental health officer will travel to Clyde River to investigate.
In the meantime, Natanine says the water is safe to drink.
The hamlet sends out weekly samples of water from different buildings that came back safe for consumption every week, which, he said, includes testing for oil.
Puglia agrees the risk to human health is low, because the spill is small and there haven’t been any reports of the water tasting or smelling bad.