Water is Life


Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
Iqaluit receives first shipment of potable water after tap water undrinkable
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Emma Tranter
Publishing date:Oct 14, 2021 • 11 hours ago • 2 minute read • Join the conversation
Hand with drinking glass filling water from kitchen faucet
Article content
IQALUIT, Nunavut — The first shipment of potable water for Iqaluit residents has arrived by plane after water in the Nunavut capital was deemed undrinkable and potentially tainted with petroleum.


Article content
The city has ordered 80,000 litres of water, and four-litre jugs were being handed out in the community of about 8,000 people.

The city says in a release that residents will be given a maximum of four reusable jugs per household and urges people to keep them for future use.

This comes after the city told residents Tuesday not to drink the tap water as a fuel smell was detected at the water treatment plant and it later declared a local state of emergency.

Agnico Eagle, which operates several mines in the territory, also says it is sending 15,000 litres of water to Iqaluit on a cargo flight that is to land tomorrow.

Meanwhile, residents have continued to collect water at Iqaluit’s Sylvia Grinnell River, including volunteers who are getting water for neighbours, elders and those without vehicles.


Article content
Water samples from Iqaluit have been sent to a lab in Southern Canada for testing and are expected back in the coming days.

A University of Saskatchewan professor who has worked in Iqaluit said any amount of fuel in drinking water is unsafe, but drinking it over the short term isn’t necessarily dangerous.

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

Siciliano said Iqaluit’s regular water testing looks for bacteria, not hydrocarbons, and noted the city shouldn’t be blamed for the situation.

The human nose is “incredibly sensitive” to hydrocarbons, meaning people can smell it even if there’s a very low amount, he said.


Article content
He said long-term exposure to compounds found in gasoline could be “very risky” but drinking it for a week or so probably isn’t going to do much harm.

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

Despite that, Siciliano said the situation in Iqaluit is urgent and a solution needs to be found as soon as possible.

“If they drank it before they found there was fuel, I don’t think they have grave cause for concern. Going forward, is it OK? Absolutely not.”

As a comparison, he said, smoking one or two cigarettes a day won’t give a person cancer but smoking a pack a day likely will.

“It’s kind of like that with the water. Drinking it every day for a week? Not going to give you cancer,” he said.

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

One temporary solution, Sicilano said, could be to install “air strippers” in the water, which would move air through contaminated water and removes chemicals.

“If you can push a lot of water through it, you can strip it of those volatile contaminants,” he said.


Hall of Fame Member
Nov 25, 2008
Vancouver Island
Never worked in muskeg, but some of the swamps on the coast give off a distinctive petroleum smell when disturbed. Even leave a sheen on the water. Could it just be from the mud melting?