The small city of Iqaluit is facing a water challenge again after traces of fuel were found in the Nunavut capital’s drinking water last week.
A precautionary boil water advisory issued Wednesday is in place and the city has shut down its water treatment plant because a breach in the system is suspected to have caused Iqaluit residents to smell fuel in their water.
“It is definitely very concerning because there are many components in fuel that are toxic,” said Charles Q. Jia, a chemical engineering professor at the University of Toronto.
This is the second time in recent months that concerns have been raised around fuel contamination in the city’s water.
Iqaluit’s 8,000 residents were unable to consume their tap water for two months last fall after it was found to be contaminated with fuel. Throughout the emergency, the city continued to hand out bottled water to residents at different sites.
Nunavut chief public health officer on Iqaluit water contamination
The city has said an old underground fuel tank from 1962 buried next to the water treatment plant was the source of the previous contamination and residual traces of fuel entered the distribution system again last week.
The fuel tank was removed and deep cleaning was done of the bedrock in the void and areas below the water treatment plant. But Jia said that was not enough to solve the city’s problem.
He questioned why a fuel tank was built near the water treatment plant in the first place, calling it a “wrong decision.”
“The underground land, soil and the structure has been contaminated so the fuel escaped beyond the tank. I think this is one of the reasons why this occurred again.”
Nunavut’s Department of Health said a do-not-consume order was not necessary at this time, because the levels of hydrocarbons identified are below the Health Canada Drinking Water Screening Value and considered safe for consumption.
“The government of Nunavut is working with the city of Iqaluit to assess contamination with regular sampling and consultation with…