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Iqaluit’s water crisis continues; City presents new information

Historic fuel storage dating to 1962 considered source of contamination
Dr. Charle Goss (left) and Ian Moran, an engineer and assistant with WSP Consulting, give a presentation to Iqaluit city council on Nov. 15. Trevor Wright/NNSL photo

The City of Iqaluit announced new information Nov. 15 relating to the source of the contamination at the city’s water treatment plant, a historic underground fuel storage tank dating to 1962.

On Oct. 24, City staff and the consulting company WSP found fuel in the void of the North Clear Well, which was the underground well where hydrocarbons were found to be entering Iqaluit’s water supply. The void is an empty space between the underground bedrock and the water treatment plant. It is intended to be an air barrier between the rock and the plant and isn’t normally accessible without specialized training, working in a similar fashion to an insulated coffee mug.

“While within the void our investigation found strong evidence of the source of the contamination. Other than the historic underground storage tank, there were no other identified sources of contamination,” said Ian Moran, WSP assistant.

The suspected point of entry for fuel entering the city’s water supply (North Clear Well) was bypassed and flushing of residential homes commenced at the end of October. Residents of the territorial capital are still advised to not drink the water, however, as the City is attempting to meet the Government of Nunavut’s requirements to declare the water safe to drink.

“The City is working closely with the Government of Nunavut and a team of experts to satisfy the requirements that are ordered by the CPHO (chief public health officer),” said Amy Elgersma, the chief administrative officer of the City of Iqaluit.

City employees also continue to flush Iqaluit’s water supply, being seen near the Qikiqtani General Hospital as recently as the afternoon of Nov. 18.

An s::can water monitoring system has also been installed between the south clear well and the reservoir, where the filtered water from Lake Geraldine is stored for daily use by residents.

“The monitoring system provides real-time detection of petroleum hydrocarbons,” said Moran, meaning the system will notify the water treatment plant operators if concentrations of hydrocarbons are found.

The Government of Nunavut is expected to make a public presentation with the data they have collected thus far in the near future.

Remediation work also continues to take place at the site of the contamination, which will include the removal of the contamination source.

A do not consume order is still under effect for the territorial capital, the Government of Nunavut sent out a reminder to not consume the water for drinking and cooking.

Tap water may still be used for the following purposes:

- Laundry

- Cleaning

- Baths and showers (avoid swallowing water)

- Washing dishes

Everyone including, pregnant women, newborns and infants can be bathed using tap water. It has been found the current levels of hydrocarbon detected in the drinking water does not pose a long-term risk to health or developmental health.