Canadian Armed Forces now providing potable water to residents of Iqaluit

November 10, 2021
Canadian Armed Forces now providing potable water to residents of Iqaluit

The Canadian Armed Forces is now providing potable water in Iqaluit amid its ongoing water contamination crisis. 

The city has been under a state of emergency since Oct. 12, when staff confirmed evidence of fuel contamination in the city’s treated water supply. Residents were told the water is unsafe to drink, even if filtered or boiled.

The CAF is using mobile water treatment units to treat water from the Sylvia Grinnell River using reverse osmosis. It then transfers potable water to a designated city water truck that carries it to water filling depots at the Arctic Winter Games and the library parking lots. 

Maj. Scott Purcell, a commander with Joint Task Force North, said this is the first time the Armed Forces has helped provide water to residents in the North. 

“Today is day one and we filled up one of their trucks thus far,” he said.

“They’re going to be doing another truck very soon and as far as we’re concerned, we will do the operation 24/7, depending on the demand from the citizens.”

The CAF setup in Iqaluit. Mobile water treatment units use a reverse osmosis system to treat water from the Sylvia Grinnell River that is then delivered to residents. (David Gunn/CBC)

The system was established just as the city stopped pumping water from the river due to colder temperatures that are making pumping operations difficult. 

“The cold water poses a threat to water truck pumps and other equipment and elevates safety concerns,” the city said in a press release Monday.

While the CAF is stepping in to provide residents with potable water, the city announced the source of water for trucked services is now changing, with trucked water services now being filled from the booster station with water from the city’s treatment plant.

This means that all residents and businesses who get trucked water deliveries will now be under a “do not consume order” until further notice.

Iqaluit city water trucks have resumed deliver of non-potable water to homes and businesses that are not on the piped water system. The water can be used for laundry, showering and bathing, including pregnant women and infants, hand washing and washing dishes — but not drinking. (David Gunn/CBC)

Previously, people receiving trucked water the city had drawn from the river could drink it, if it was boiled. Starting Tuesday, city-truck-delivered water can only be used for laundry, showering and bathing, hand washing and washing dishes. 

Purcell said the current request for assistance from the CAF to provide residents of Iqaluit with potable water is set to last until Nov. 17. A discussion between the territorial government and Public Safety Canada about continuing to provide assistance after that date is ongoing.

On Tuesday, the Nunavut government extended the city’s state of emergency until Nov. 23. 

It continues to purchase, transport and distribute bottled water to residents, in light of the emergency. 

Residents with questions about water can call the city’s water hotline at 945-5603. 

People pick up bottled water in front of Iqaluit’s Nakasuk School Tuesday, Nov. 9. (Jane George/CBC)

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