Iqaluit reservoir full, no thanks to GN, says mayor

Nunavut’s Department of Community and Government Services “needs a real good wakeup call” after failing to issue the City of Iqaluit an electrical permit to pump water into the Lake Geraldine reservoir, said Mayor Kenny Bell.

Bell directed a series of comments toward the department at Tuesday’s council meeting during chief administrative officer Amy Elgersma’s update on Iqaluit’s water emergency.

“[I’m] disappointed in their response after calling the original emergency,” Bell said.

“Quite frankly, I’m disturbed by it. These people live here and don’t understand the severity of our situation. This is a huge problem for the city.”

Community and Government Services Minister David Joanasie declined an interview request about the mayor’s coments.

On Aug. 12, the city declared a local state of emergency due to a water shortage.

Councillors passed a plan that would see the city pump water from Unnamed Lake into the Apex River and then into the Lake Geraldine reservoir. Under the plan, it would also pump more water from the river than is normally allowed.

CGS has the authority to grant the permit that allows for this to happen, but due to “ridiculous asks” it was never issued, Bell said

Lake Geraldine is nearly filled for the winter after lots of rainfall in August. The city was also able to pump water from the Apex River. (File photo by Dustin Patar)

Instead, he said, the city had to turn its attention to pumping water only from the Apex River. Elgersma said there was more rainfall than expected near the end of summer, and that helped buoy reservoir and river levels.

Lake Geraldine is nearly filled to the brim now: Elgersma said 111.12 out of 111.3 metres above sea level is filled, with that last bit of room purposely left to account for rainfall and early snowmelt.

“The city’s in good shape going into winter,” she said, adding that pumping ended Sept. 19 and equipment is being taken down.

In an email response to Nunatsiaq News’ request for an interview with Joanasie, an unidentified CGS spokesperson said the department’s chief electrician — who also was not named — tried to ensure the water pumping operation would be conducted safely.

However, the spokesperson said, the city didn’t do what the electrician asked for. The department did not say what these requests were.

“The city withdrew their application after they were able to acquire their target volume of water from the Apex River,” the spokesperson said in the email.

Prior to that, however, CGS did a number of things to aid the city in filling the reservoir, such as lending it equipment and expediting permit reviews, the spokesperson said.

During the council meeting, neither Elgersma nor Bell offered more information on how that process unfolded.

The city did not respond to Nunatsiaq News’ questions about any issues that came up regarding the electrical permit.

Elgersma did say during the meeting that some of CGS’s requirements included needing parts that couldn’t be bought off the shelf in town, down south or in Europe.

She said the city had pumping infrastructure in place what other Nunavut communities and mines have, but was held to a different standard.

Coun. Romeyn Stevenson asked what it will cost the city to set up and tear down a water pumping system — pipes, pumps, hoses and more — that was never used.

Elgersma said she didn’t have a dollar amount yet but would look into it.

Coun. Kimberly Smith asked if the permitting issue would arise again in the future when Unnamed Lake becomes the city’s second water source.

Elgersma said it will be difficult to work around over the next couple of years, but now that engineers on the city’s side know what CGS wants it can be worked into the long-term plan.

In the email, the CGS spokesperson called the department’s response “prompt and effective” and said CGS would reach out to the city to find out what it would like done differently in the future.

David Venn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News