Iqaluit residents filled blue plastic jugs and bottles into the icy Sylvia Grinnell River outside the city on Wednesday after they were told tap water in the Nunavut capital may be unsafe to drink.
The city declared a local emergency on Tuesday night, saying its water supply may contain gasoline.
Some residents complained about the smell of fuel in the water on social media last week, but the city said the water had gone through routine testing and was safe.
The city then announced that evidence of possible petroleum hydrocarbons, or fuel, had been observed at its water treatment plant.
City officials said water samples have been sent to a laboratory in southern Canada, but noted that it would take about five business days for those results to come back.
The city provided treated water to residents on Wednesday morning at the watering depot station, but it still needed to be boiled.
Andrew Tagak Jr., who had several water jugs to fill, said he has been able to get enough water for himself and three other people in his household.
“As long as I know it’s fresh, I’m happy,” Tagak Jr. told The Canadian Press.
He said he noticed an odor in his water last week, but didn’t think much of it.
“I had no idea it was going to be petroleum hydrocarbons. I was upset … but now we’ve got water and maybe now we can move on,” Tagak Jr. said.
Katie Hughes, another Iqaluit resident, said she felt her water smelled of fuel for the past week and a half.
“I think the city should have done the test two weeks ago and it’s their job to keep us safe,” Hughes said.
Christine Carco said she was incensed when she learned that something was wrong with the Iqaluit waters.
“A lot has happened in the past week or so about whether it’s safe or not,” Carko said.
City water trucks were also pumping water from the Sylvia Grinnell River late at night and this morning.
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, had run out of bottled water as of Wednesday afternoon. Both stores also sold out with plastic jugs.
In Iqaluit, like all communities in Nunavut, bottled water is already sold at a high price.
For example, a 40-pack of 500ml bottles of water at Northmart typically sells for $48.79 before tax, while a 24-pack of water is $27.99.
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