Iqaluit drinking water deemed safe again after 60-day do-not-consume order

WATCH: Contaminated Iqaluit water tank isolated following initial inspection

People in Iqaluit can drink the city’s tap water again after 60 days of living under a do-not-consume notice.

The notice was lifted Friday by Nunavut’s Health Department.

Residents of the territorial capital were told on Oct. 12 not to drink tap water after fuel was detected in the city’s supply.

The Health Department said in a release that it wanted to see three consecutive tests come back clean at the water treatment plant before lifting the order.

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The department said it took several steps to address the emergency, including installing new water-quality monitors, remediating the site around the treatment plant and scrubbing the tanks.

Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, thanked the city’s 8,000 people for their patience throughout the eight-week state of emergency.

“Thorough testing and assessments conducted over the past eight weeks show that the water is safe for consumption and that the risk of recontamination is low,” Patterson said.

The Health Department release said tests came back on Oct. 12 and Oct. 19 with “higher than acceptable” levels of hydrocarbons.

After further testing, Patterson was “confident that the hydrocarbons detected after Oct. 19 were the product of residual hydrocarbons left over from the cleanup and not from recontamination,” the release said.

All tests done after Oct. 19 showed hydrocarbon levels were either undetectable or within safety levels for drinking water.

The release said some residents might still smell fuel in the water, but it should go away after running the tap for 20 minutes.

The Health Department had previously said that Iqaluit residents were unlikely to face health risks from drinking the contaminated water.

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Documents obtained by The Canadian Press through an access-to-information request show that staff with Nunavut’s health and environment departments inspected the water treatment plant four days before the do-not-consume order was issued.

In emails, government staff said they had to leave the water treatment plant at one point on Oct. 8 because of an “unbearable” fuel smell.

The emails also show that water-testing in Iqaluit consistently came back clean after Oct. 19.

In a separate release Friday, the City of Iqaluit said that with the order lifted, all water bottle distribution has stopped and all water-filling depots are closed.

The Canadian Armed Forces has been in Iqaluit since Oct. 23 to help with the water emergency by using a reverse osmosis system to distribute treated river water to residents.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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