Residents in Canada's north warned not to drink tap water

Possible petroleum contamination in water supply in capital city

Barry Ellsworth   | 14.10.2021
Residents in Canada's north warned not to drink tap water


The capital city of Iqaluit in Canada's far north in Nunavut territory, home to the country’s indigenous Inuit people, declared a state of emergency Wednesday due to possible petroleum contamination of the city's water supply. 

The government of Nunavut will fly in 80,000 liters of water over three days in an effort to defuse the crisis as officials attempt to find the source of the suspected contaminate.

"We are grateful for that," said Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell.

The community, located near Baffin Island, is isolated, and water must be flown in for the population of around 8,000.

The advisory, issued by the Department of Health, follows reports of a fuel smell coming from taps in homes. When the city checked one of the tanks that holds water in its treatment plant, the smell was there too.

"There was a strong smell of petroleum products," Bell told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). "We knew something was wrong."

The city is still days away from getting water test results.

"An active investigation of the city's drinking water system and additional testing of the drinking water are ongoing," said the health department advisory. "The Department of Health anticipates receiving additional test results from out of territory environmental laboratories in about five business days."

Petroleum hydrocarbons cannot be removed by boiling or filtering, so residents who need water were forced to take jugs to a pickup location to be filled. Bottled water was selling for CAN$9 a liter in Iqaluit stores.

Schools were closed Wednesday as well as government buildings. The latter were expected to reopen Thursday, according to a news release from the city.

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