Iqaluit water crisis: A state of emergency is declared when the city receives the first water shipment – National

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The Nunavut government has declared a 14-day state of emergency in Iqaluit after water in the capital was considered undrinkable and potentially contaminated with petroleum.

The first shipment of drinking water to residents also came by plane, and more are expected to be delivered in the coming days.

The city has ordered 80,000 liters of water and four-liter jugs were distributed to about 8,000 people.

Community and Civil Service Minister Jeannie Ehaloak says the territorial government takes Iqaluit’s water issue “very seriously.”

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She says the state of emergency does not indicate an increased risk to people, but it will help distribute additional resources to the city more quickly.

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The state of emergency is valid until October 27.

“We have been in constant communication with the city of Iqaluit, the Ministry of Health and the federal government and we are working together to ensure that Iqalungmmiut has ongoing access to safe drinking water,” Ehaloak said in a statement Thursday.

Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell told Global News that the first shipment of water, which was about 30,000 gallons of the promised 80,000, had arrived.

Bell said the water would be transported to city residents by 3:30 p.m. local time.

The city told residents on Tuesday not to drink tap water because a fuel odor was detected at the water treatment plant. It later declared a local state of emergency.


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Water samples from Iqaluit were sent to a laboratory in southern Canada for testing and are expected to return in the coming days.

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The city said residents will receive a maximum of four reusable jugs per household and urged people to keep them for future use.

Agnico Eagle, who operates several mines in the territory, also said that it sent 15,000 liters of water to Iqaluit on a cargo flight that will land on Friday.

Meanwhile, some residents have been collecting water on the Iqaluit Sylvia Grinnell River. Volunteers also collect and deliver water to neighbors, elders and people without vehicles.

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A professor at the University of Saskatchewan who has worked in Iqaluit said that any amount of fuel in drinking water is unsafe, but drinking it in the short term is not necessarily dangerous.

Steven Siciliano, a microbiologist and toxicologist who has done research in the north, said the city did the right thing by telling residents as soon as it smelled.

Siciliano said Iqaluit’s regular water tests look for bacteria, not hydrocarbons, noting that the city should not be blamed for the situation.

The human nose is “incredibly sensitive” to hydrocarbons, which means humans can smell it even if it is very low, he said.

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He said that long-term exposure to compounds found in gasoline can be “very risky” but drinking it for a week or so will probably not do much harm.

“It’s not like you have a cup of water, you are poisoned for the rest of your life,” said Siciliano.

Nevertheless, Siciliano said the situation in Iqaluit was urgent and a solution had to be found as soon as possible.

“If they drank it before they discovered there was fuel, I do not think they have any serious cause for concern. Going forward, is it OK? Absolutely not.”

As a comparison, he said, smoking one or two cigarettes a day will not give a person cancer, but it will likely smoke one pack a day.

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“It’s about the same with water. Do you drink it every day for a week? Will not give you cancer, he says.

“We do not know how much fuel there is. They may not be fuel in there – that’s the good news. ”

A temporary solution, Sicilano said, could be to install “air removers” in the water, which would move air through polluted water and remove chemicals.

“If you can squeeze a lot of water through it, you can remove it from the volatile pollutants,” he said.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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