Igloolik middle school closed for the week while fuel spill gets cleaned up

Igloolik in the fall of 2021. (Meagan Deuling/CBC - image credit)
Igloolik in the fall of 2021. (Meagan Deuling/CBC - image credit)

Sivuniit Middle School students in Igloolik, Nunavut, have been learning from home since last week due to a fuel spill found in the building's mechanical room during the winter break.

It happened on Dec. 24, according to the chairperson of the Igloolik District Education Authority, who spoke with CBC News in Inuktitut. There are three schools in the community of about 2,000.

The spill was discovered during a building check, according to Hala Duale, a spokesperson with the Department of Community and Government Service, in an email.

Two additional personnel were called at the time to help with the cleanup, and to ensure immediate prevention of further spillage. However, Duale said some product leaked into the insulation under the floor and onto the ground.

Right now, it's estimated that about 189 litres spilled — slightly more than would fill an average bathtub — but local staff are doing further assessments to confirm.

Duale said the cause of the spill was a malfunctioning float, which allowed the pump to overfill the tank.

Students were given learning packages on Monday while the Department of Community and Government Services worked to fix the building.

Chairperson Angiliq said the school will continue to be closed all week.

"On January 2, I received a call from Sivuniit Middle School saying there is a fuel smell in the building and I asked right away if the whole building smells like fuel and was told that it is the whole building," Angiliq said in Inuktitut.

A contractor has been hired to clean up the leaked fuel outside.

Duale said the school is being ventilated with two fans and an air handling unit to remove the fuel smell.

It is unclear when students will be able to use the building again.