Nunavut gets $2M boost as report reveals poor health and safety record at drinking water treatment facilities

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photo of Igloolik Baffin Region Nunavut
Village of Igloolik Baffin Region of Nunavut. Photo Credit: Overflightstock, stock.adobe.com

As the federal government recently announced $2 million to develop proposals for upgrading drinking water treatment facilities in the Nunavut communities of Igloolik, Coral Harbour, and Clyde River, MLAs pressed the territory’s minister in the Legislative Assembly about why only eight of 25 water treatment facilities in Nunavut are able to pass health and safety tests.

The funding announcement, which focuses on design and technical options, as well as cost estimates, comes as a response to the numerous boil water advisories issued in Igloolik in recent years due to high turbidity levels.

David Joanasie, Minister of Community and Government Services, stated that the current treatment of the water source in Igloolik involves both filtration and chlorination.

“These standards are not achievable using the existing treatment technology in Nunavut communities which were built in the 1990s to meet the treatment standards of that time,” Joanasie told the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut, referring to the current Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality treatment objectives.

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The debate in the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut echoed in Parliament a day later when an NDP MP accused the federal government of having “neglected to provide healthy drinking water for Indigenous communities.”

A report published by Nunatsiaq News, obtained by Nunavut’s access to information law, also revealed that the remaining 17 Nunavut community water facilities that did not pass health and safety tests still had deficiencies.

Joanasie emphasized that Igloolik’s treated drinking water does meet the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality for microbiological and chemical parameters, with daily operational testing conducted for chlorine levels and turbidity.

Joanasie also announced that his department, with the financial support of the federal government, is investing over $160 million in water treatment over the next five years. This investment will go towards planning, design, and construction to ensure the availability and safety of drinking water for all local residents. The Drinking Water Strategic Framework, developed in collaboration with the Departments of Health and Environment, was tabled in the Spring sitting of 2023, and work on the Drinking Water Action Plan is already underway, he noted.

The design and construction phases for upgrades to drinking water treatment facilities in Arctic Bay, Grise Fiord, Pond Inlet, Rankin Inlet, and Sanikiluaq can now begin, following the completion of an additional planning phase project.

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