After nearly two months, Iqaluit’s Do Not Consume Advisory for tap water was lifted Dec. 10, after hydrocarbons were found in the water mid-October.
Questions remain, however, as to how and why a full fuel tank was buried beside the city’s water treatment plant, says Mayor Kenny Bell.
“Clearly that was a major failure,” he says, “why they did it, we don’t know.”
The fuel tank, believed to be buried in 1995 and found under a layer of concrete, is the subject of an ongoing investigation into Iqaluit’s water crisis.
“If you’re going to bury a tank why would you want to bury one that’s full? It doesn’t make any sense at all.”
In addition to lingering questions as to how fuel got into the water supply, Iqaluit is facing another kind of water crisis, one with a $184-million price tag needed to fix it.
For years Lake Geraldine, the city’s water supply, has been facing continued shortages.
The increased national and international media attention this most recent water crisis has brought to Iqaluit has helped in the City’s lobbying for funding.
“We have a long-term water crisis,” Bell said, “we’re going into our sixth year – we had to submit our application during a water emergency.”
Bell says while there’s nothing good about this water emergency, “it did bring to light our overall water crisis, the six years of not having enough water for the community and no real ability to grow.”
In 2019 the City had to pump about 200,000 cubic meters of water from the Apex River to Lake Geraldine to help meet the City’s winter water needs.
Bell said he was able to bring the matter of this long-term water crisis to larger audiences outside of Nunavut, from national outlets to larger international organizations such as the BBC or Al Jazeera English.
“You never want to wish this upon anyone but that’s pretty good timing if you’re already in a crisis that needs support from the government,” Bell said.
The City of Iqaluit has been aware for the need of additional water since early projections in 2005, with the Lake Geraldine dam being raised the following year to help accommodate more water.
Unless the chronic water shortages are fixed, the City won’t be able to address things such as much needed housing or the city’s growth.
“We can’t open land for housing because there’s not enough water for more people. We’re in a serious situation,” said Bell.