Iqaluit residents collect river water, city fills up tanks after gasoline suspected in tap water

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Iqaluit residents wait in long queues with empty buckets and jaggery in hand On Wednesday they were warned not to drink their tap water for water extracted from the nearby Sylvia Grinnell River because it may contain gasoline.

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The Nunavut capital declared a local emergency the night before possible contamination of its main water supply. Nunavut Public Health said “observations” of suspected petroleum hydrocarbons in the water system have made it unsafe for consumption and bathing by infants and pregnant women.

The city made treated water from the river available to residents at depot filling stations, but it still needed to be boiled for use. Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell told the media that the Nunavut government said it would provide 80,000 liters of water to the city.

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Schools were closed in Iqaluit on Wednesday and government offices were closed until noon due to water problems. Arctic Ventures and Northmart, the city’s two major grocery stores, were out of bottled water by noon. Both stores also sold out with plastic jugs.

Bottled water in Nunavut usually sells for a very high price. For example, a 40-pack of 500-milliliter bottles of water at Northmart typically sells for $48.79 before tax, while a 24-pack is $27.99.

Aaron Watson, who has lived with his family in Apex, a few kilometers from Iqaluit, since 2004, said hearing the news caused some shock and panic in the community. However, many were helping out and offering rides to others, knowing that not everyone had the means to get to the river or filling stations.

Mr Watson was one of more than a dozen people at the local river – already a favorite place to collect clean water for outdoor tea – filling buckets and jugs. City workers were also there, loading their water trucks with river water. The Watsons are among many households that regularly rely on city trucks to fill their water tanks.

“It is known to be a safe source for water,” he said.

Complaints about the fuel smell coming from the water in some homes have circulated on social media since October 2, but Nunavut Public Health said test results found a low risk of contamination and that the water was safe to drink. On October 10, the city said it was continuing to test and investigate reports of a fuel odor in drinking water and was working with an engineering firm and public health officials. It said the water tests were “satisfactory”.

That apparently changed on Tuesday afternoon, according to local media, when public works workers detected a fuel smell when they opened a sealed access vault containing chemicals used to treat water.

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The city’s economic development officer Geoffrey Byrne said additional samples taken on Tuesday were sent via airplane. Results are expected in a lab outside the field and by the end of the week. The source of the suspected contamination has not been identified.

Janet Pitsialak Brewster, Iqaluit’s deputy mayor who is on leave as she runs for a seat in Nunavut’s legislature, helped deliver water to families and the elderly on Wednesday. He said water infrastructure was the number one issue in the city’s most recent budget.

She said Iqaluit needed $100 million to address its old water and sewage infrastructure, which is building new homes in the city of about 9,000 people, which has a high indigenous population.

“Iqaluit needs at least 1,400 more homes and we can’t build any new ones because we don’t have the infrastructure to support it,” he said. “We need partnerships for that, investment from the federal government … from the territorial government.”

Ms Brewster said water rates in Iqaluit are among the highest in the country at two cents a liter, which includes repairs and annual maintenance, and overcrowded homes are facing hefty water bills they can’t afford . He said it is unrealistic to expect water conservation in overcrowded households due to inadequate infrastructure and that the water crisis is another example of the poor health determinants faced by the Inuit in addition to poverty, food insecurity and trauma.

“We need infrastructure that allows us to be able to lower our water rates. Right now, we have a population of people who already struggle to make ends meet in the country with the highest cost of living. doing,” she said.

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“We need an infrastructure that supports the people who are most at risk in our community, and the truth is that the Inuits who live in Iqaluit are most at risk.”

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and his party MP for Iqaluit, Lori Idlout, issued a statement calling for Ottawa to respond to the state of emergency by providing a short-term supply of water and using all of its resources to fix an all-too-normal. asked for. Problems in rural and remote communities, especially northern and indigenous peoples.

With a report from the Canadian Press

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