Testing shows high concentrations of fuel in Iqaluit water
The Nunavut government has been flying in shipments of potable water, while many residents have collected freshwater from a nearby river.
IQALUIT — The City of Iqaluit says testing shows a high concentration of fuel in a tank that supplies water to the Nunavut capital, but long-term health effects are not a concern.
Officials at a news conference Friday said the fuel could be diesel or kerosene.
“The results of water quality testing showed exceedingly high concentrations of various fuel components in the sample collected from that tank,” said Amy Elgersma, the city’s chief administrative officer.
Residents of the community of 8,000 people were told Tuesday not to drink tap water after it was discovered it may be contaminated by fuel.
The Nunavut government has been flying in shipments of potable water, while many residents have collected fresh water from a nearby river.
Elgersma said the city has isolated and bypassed the contaminated tank, and its water is being pumped out into trucks and transferred to holding tanks so it can be treated.
Once the tank is emptied, the city will conduct an investigation to determine how contaminants entered it, she said.
Water in the city’s treated reservoir, which is downstream from the treatment plant and is the last point before water delivery, showed levels “well within health limits,” Elgersma said.
“This part is very good news.”
The city is also flushing its water distribution system to remove contaminants. The process is to continue for another 48 hours, then residents will get instructions to flush their home pipes by running their water for 20 minutes.
Iqaluit’s hospital, the only one in the territory, will only be doing emergency surgeries for now, over concerns about sterilizing tools with contaminated water. One-time-use instruments are to be utilized as much as possible.
In addition, the city is doing an environmental assessment around the water treatment plant to look for possible contaminants in the soil.
The cause of the fuel contamination has not yet been determined.
Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, said whatever the cause is, it didn’t happen naturally.
“It could be an old spill that’s been liberated with (thawing) permafrost. It could be damage to the infrastructure â¦ there’s a number of things. But it’s not natural,” he said.
Patterson also said there does not seem to be any health risks to Iqaluit residents who drank contaminated tap water.
“The best evidence we have available right now is the risk of long-term health effects is not a concern at this point,” he said.