Iqaluit residents can drink tap water again, Nunavut’s health department says

Iqaluit residents can drink tap water again, Nunavut’s health department says

by Sue Jones
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Nunavut’s department of health has lifted the do-not-consume order for Iqaluit tap water, meaning residents can once again drink from the city’s water supply after going two months without it due to concerns about fuel contamination.

Iqaluit Water 20211027

Water from the City of Iqaluit’s water treatment plant is safe to drink again, the territory’s health department announced Friday as they lifted a do-not-consume order that had lasted for two months. (Dustin Patar/The Canadian Press)

Nunavut’s Department of Health lifted the do-not-consume order in Iqaluit, meaning residents there can once again drink from the city’s water supply.

Iqaluit’s 8,000 residents have spent the last two months unable to drink the city’s water from their taps due to concerns about fuel contamination. Officials originally told residents not to drink the tap water on Oct. 12, after complaints started flooding in about a smell of fuel in the water.

In a news release Friday afternoon, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson stated that all tests done after Oct. 19 have shown the drinking water is safe to consume.

“Having this order lifted is a huge weight off our chest,” said Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell.

Bell said Iqaluit will be the first place in Canada to have a second monitoring system in place to check the water for hydrocarbons.

“Which is probably a little bit overkill, but at the same time we did have a problem and we need to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” he said.

Water may still smell in some areas

In some areas, the water may still smell of fuel, but it should dissipate once Iqalummiut run the water for 20 minutes and clean the aerators on their taps.

Bell said residents should trust the water, even if there is still a smell.

Kenny Bell

Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell said having the do-not-consume order lifted has been a huge weight lifted. (Jane George/CBC)

“There’s been a lot of testing from our side, the city and the Government of Nunavut,” he said. “There’s been outside engineers, including a third-party reviewer that reviewed all of the tests from the certified laboratory.”

If residents do report a fuel smell, Bell said the city has a team that will take a sample of that household’s water to test.

“We’ve had a couple complaints over the last week, and all of the tests came back non-detectable. So everything is good, it’s just there’s going to be some pockets moving through the system that will take a little bit of time to clean,” he said.

Risk of recontamination low

“Thorough testing and assessments conducted over the past eight weeks show that the water is safe for consumption and that the risk of recontamination is low,” Patterson said in the release.

“I want to thank Iqalummiut for their patience, I know these past weeks have been challenging.”

The department said a number of measures took place to make the water safe again, including scrubbing the water tanks, installing new monitors and bringing in new procedures to prevent contamination from happening again.

Patterson said he also wanted to see at least three consecutive test results come back clean before he lifted the order.

Recreation facilities still closed, for now

On Nov. 30, the city announced it was temporarily suspending some recreation services because its staff were needed elsewhere to help with the water crisis.

Bell said the city ultimately wants to reopen those facilities now that the do-not-consume order has been lifted, but a timeline for when that might happen is “up in the air” since the city just got word that the order was lifting.

“Obviously we want our facilities open and having our residents use them,” he said. 

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