QEC releases details on propylene glycol spill near hospital

Utility estimates 200 to 400 litres released into environment

Workers are seen near the site of a propylene glycol spill in Iqaluit earlier this week. (File photo by David Lochead)

By David Lochead

The Qulliq Energy Corp. has released details about a propylene glycol spill that occurred near Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit on Tuesday.

Between 22,000 to 33,000 litres of a mix of half propylene glycol and half water spilled, according to an email from Qulliq Energy Corp. The majority of the spill was collected and pumped into storage until the substance can be disposed of. As well, the energy corp. said that an initial assessment shows 200 to 400 litres may have been released into the environment.

The liquid escaped from district heating pipes used to help heat the hospital while city contractors were working on a sewer upgrade, according to a statement from city spokesperson Aleksey Cameron.

An update from the energy corp. says workers immediately turned off the hospital’s district heating system when the spill was reported, and asked the hospital to check that its internal heating system was working. Other customers were notified the spill occurred and that district heating services will be interrupted.

Iqaluit’s district heating system channels excess heat from the power station’s diesel generators to help heat buildings including the hospital, aquatic centre, courthouse and college.

Propylene glycol is a tasteless, odourless chemical that is used in food and pharmaceutical products, as well as de-icing. The chemical’s ability to transfer heat makes it useful for the city’s district heating system. It’s “relatively non-toxic to humans and wildlife,” according to the city’s statement.

The repair of the district heating system will take several months, according to the energy corp., due to the extent of the damage and time required to replace equipment.

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(5) Comments:

  1. Posted by River Rat on

    “relatively non-toxic to humans and wildlife”

    This is coming to you from the team that told you there wasn’t any fuel in your water and to keep drinking it.

  2. Posted by More questions coming…. on

    Exactly how did this happen? Was someone operating a machine that maybe should’ve been? More details please.
    The people of Iqaluit deserve to know.

  3. Posted by Yup on

    Iqaluits falling apart, spill at the tank farm coming next episode.

  4. Posted by Icy Islander on

    Propylene glycol is slightly toxic, but you would have to drink a lot of it. It is one of the components of RV/marine antifreeze used to winterize plumbing systems. If a little remains in a system when it is restarted and you drink it, it is not a problem. It can safely be flushed into sewer and septic systems, where bacteria break it down.

    Some RV/Marine antifreeze contains a similar chemical, polyethylene glycol. This is also used as a colonoscopy prep. It is safe to use to flush your guts as well as flush into your pipes.

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