Timeline: What’s in the water?
Key developments in Iqaluit water crisis
In October, Iqaluit residents began complaining about an odour in the city’s drinking water. After nearly two weeks, the City of Iqaluit told residents to stop drinking municipal tap water because it suspected some form or petroleum product had contaminated the city’s water system.
Here’s how Iqaluit’s water crisis unfolded:
- Iqaluit residents begin complaining on Facebook about an odour in municipal tap water; some report illnesses, including headaches and dizziness.
- City of Iqaluit inspects water treatment plant, takes water samples from half a dozen areas; tests come back clean; water meets national standards, Mayor Kenny Bell later says. City says daily water tests came back “satisfactory” and suggested chlorine might have been the cause of the odour.
- Mayor says city staff detected “strong smell of gas” coming from containment tank used to hold chemicals for treating water.
- City releases a second statement that all city water that had been tested met national standards. City announces decision to hire an engineering firm to investigate further.
- Mayor tells residents not to drink the city’s tap water. It’s OK to bathe in it, though pregnant women should avoid it.
- Mayor called to emergency meeting with Government of Nunavut officials.
- City of Iqaluit declares state of emergencyduring special council session. “We suspect that there is petroleum — some type of petroleum product — that has entered the water system,” senior administrative officer Amy Elgersma says.
- City opens filling stations at the library and Arctic Winter Games Arena to distribute water trucked in from Sylvia Grinnell River; some Iqalummiut go to the river to fill jugs themselves. City recommends boiling river water before consuming.
- Government of Nunavut buildings in Iqaluit close for the afternoon due to water issue.
- Government of Nunavut buys 80,000 litres of bottled water to be flown into Iqaluit from the south and distributed.
- Government of Nunavut declares a state of emergency to “ensure the necessary supports are available” to the city and its residents and to allow it to “deploy necessary resources” to protect public health and city infrastructure.
- First shipments of GN’s bottled water purchase arrive in Iqaluit; gone within hours. More shipments expected in coming days.
- Mayor Kenny Bell says 15-month vacancy in city’s public works department not connected to contaminated water system. System had been overseen by CAO and two superintendents.
- 5 p.m.: Tests show “exceedingly high concentrations” of fuel in a water storage tank, city CAO Amy Elgermsa says during press conference alongside Mayor Kenny Bell and Nunavut chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson. Risk of long-term health effects to people who consumed water in “is not a concern at this time,” Patterson says. Do-not-drink advisory remains in effect while city flushes its system. No clear date for water supply to return to normal.