Bad weather hampers military efforts to purify Iqaluit river water

·2 min read
Task Force Iqaluit members are preparing to use military truck-mounted water containers to transport river water to the facility for purifying. (David Gunn/CBC News - image credit)
Task Force Iqaluit members are preparing to use military truck-mounted water containers to transport river water to the facility for purifying. (David Gunn/CBC News - image credit)

Seven weeks into Iqaluit's drinking water crisis, the Canadian Armed Forces is finalizing plans to move its water purification efforts in Iqaluit to an existing military facility, as the city's water remains unsafe to drink.

The original plan, which involved using a reverse osmosis water purifier at the Sylvia Grinnell River was waylaid Nov. 22 by a winter storm that snapped the frame of a military tent that sheltered clean water bladders from the reverse osmosis system.

Another tent was expected to be shipped in, but the onset of winter meant it was more and more difficult to keep the reverse osmosis system running at the Sylvia Grinnell River.

It's warmer than usual in Iqaluit right now, though still relatively cold. On the afternoon of Nov. 30, temperatures sat at -14 C. Wind chill for the morning of Dec. 1 is expected to take those temperatures down to -28 C.

David Gunn/CBC News
David Gunn/CBC News

Now, Task Force Iqaluit members are preparing to use military truck-mounted water containers to transport river water to the facility for purifying.

The purified water will then be hauled out of the facility by City of Iqaluit water trucks for local distribution.

In an email to CBC, Maj. Susan Magill, the senior public affiars officer for Joint Task Force North, wrote that bringing the purification units into a protected environment means limiting Task Force Iqaluit members' exposure to extreme weather.

"Significant and extreme winds in the region became a hazard to personnel due to the extreme wind chill and posed a significant risk to damaging the [reverse osmosis units]," Magill stated.

The military has been treating water taken from the Sylvia Grinnell River since Nov. 9, about four weeks after Iqaluit's water was discovered to have been contaminated with fuel.

The water is treated via reverse osmosis and put into designated city water trucks that carry it to water filling depots around town. Residents have also been able to pick up flats of bottled water multiple times a week.

Recreation services limited

In an update on Nov. 30, the City of Iqaluit announced it is temporarily suspending some recreation services so its staff can keep helping out with the water crisis.

This means the fitness centre will be closed to all drop-in and pre-registered programming, and the city is suspending all arena rentals Monday to Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Rentals will still be available after 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The city stated it is not taking any bookings for ice time or facilities.

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