Officials confident no lasting damage to Iqaluit’s water supply after contamination

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When Maggie Akpik saw a Facebook post about Iqaluit’s waters, she thought it was better to check her home. He turned on his tap, lowered his nose to the tap “and of course, I didn’t even have to get really close, I could already smell it.”

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Ms Akpik, a 30-year-old mother of three girls, was one of several residents of Iqaluit who detected diesel-like fumes in their water for ten days before Nunavut’s capital declared a local emergency on October 12. City officials warned residents against drinking water from their taps on the same day, saying even boiling the water would not guarantee its safety.

This weekend the city warned that the smell was expected to stop and strengthen, as workers shed water lines to clear contaminants, a process that would continue into the weeks.


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Iqaluit confirms contaminated water tank

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In the meantime, the city will conduct an environmental assessment of the land and soil in the area of ​​the local water treatment plant as it continues to investigate the source of the pollution, and hopes the water will be safe to drink later this week.

Last Friday, Iqaluit said it had identified high concentrations of hydrocarbons in plant samples, analogous to diesel fuel or kerosene. The samples were taken from the underground water tank, which has been isolated from the system.

Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Michael Patterson, said Friday that the tests found no carcinogens or other chemicals known to cause long-term harm to human health. However, some people who drank Iqaluit water prior to the order not to consume reported headaches and vomiting, Dr. Patterson said.

On Saturday, a steady stream of residents pulled into trucks, ATVs and taxis to pick up the allotted one case of bottled water per family, outside Iqaluit’s Naksuk Elementary School.

“It’s been a little stressful,” Jackie Dook said after holding her case. She is brushing her teeth and washing her dishes with boiled river water. “It brings to mind First Nations that have been living like this for years and years. We’re just going through this for a week.”

The night before the city issued a no-consumer order, Ms. Akpick’s partner Walter brushed his teeth with tap water. Afterwards, he felt sick and vomited, Ms Akpik said. Despite the tap water’s slight diesel smell, he immediately swallowed a cup down.

“It was before the announcement, so he drank water and as soon as he did, he got even more sick,” Ms Akpik said. “He was at home all night.”

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Ms Akpik said her partner recovered quickly from her illness.

Since then, the family has been dependent on Sylvia Grinnell River water and the bottled water the city is handing over from the case. His daughters’ school was closed for three days. Due to extreme caution, Ms. Akpik has not taken a bath since the night before the emergency was declared.

Chief Wayne Moonias of the Neskantaga First Nation – a northern Ontario community that has been under a boil-water advisory for 26 years, the longest in the country – said he expected the Iqaluit to solve their water crisis. Necessary support and action will be taken.

“This is what people need regardless of where you live, what color of skin, what you believe in, you should be able to access clean, safe drinking water.”

Mr Moonias said members of his community deal not only with physical effects such as skin rashes and reactions from bathing and bathing in unsafe tap water, but also the mental-health impacts on generations of people who Not only do they distrust their own waters, but they don’t. For example, rely on tap water when they’re out of a remote community in places like Thunder Bay.

“There’s trauma, ongoing mental-health issues,” he said. “Treatment and work will be something we’ll have to deal with for the longest time.”

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While water and sewage infrastructure in First Nations, such as Nescantaga, is a federal responsibility under Indigenous Services Canada, Iqaluit is a municipality struggling with high water rates that cannot address its outdated infrastructure, which needs to be replaced. the wanted.

City council members have said it would cost more than $100 million to upgrade its water and sewage systems.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Granthshala editors, giving you a brief summary of the day’s most important headlines. .

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