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Water contamination issues return to Iqaluit as fuel odours continue

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Iqaluit officials have once again bypassed the local water treatment plant out of fears of contamination, as fuel odours continue to raise red flags.

Just prior to Christmas, when the community of 8,000 thought it had finally resolved water issues that began in October, residents now find themselves under yet another precautionary boil water advisory for water pumped from Lake Geraldine.

Initially, the residual hydrocarbons from the first state of emergency were believed to be from a 1960s fuel tank leak that may have entered the distribution system. The fuel tank was removed and cleaned, but may not have resolved the issue, although the cause of the latest plant shutdown, which also involves fuel odours, has yet to be addressed.

A city spokesperson also told local media that a concrete reservoir specialist team was going to further analyze the tank, including its lining.

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City staff said the latest contamination was removed by flushing the reservoir before it got into the distribution pipes, according to a municipal statement.

Almost all sampling and analysis undertaken by the city since October, however, has found extremely low petroleum hydrocarbons levels. In the latest announcement from the Nunavut Department of Health, officials said that: “While the contamination levels were below the health screening values developed by Health Canada, the boil water advisory is a precautionary measure because the water is not filtered through the normal water treatment processes.”

Canadian Armed Forces Operation LENTUS had been active in Iqaluit to pump, pressurize and filter water from the Sylvia Grinnell River, using reverse osmosis.

Now, residents are making their way out to the rivers to get their own water, or using bottled water offered within the community.

Nunavut MP Lori Idlout is now calling for $180 million from the federal government to “end the water emergency in Iqaluit,” echoing Mayor Kenny Bell’s recent statements that the city needs a new water source and treatment plant.

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