Iqaluit water treatment plant to come back online Friday

Iqaluit’s water treatment plant is scheduled to come back online Friday, more than a year after it was shut down due to a second fuel contamination event.

Workers completed the last of the repairs near the end of 2022 and in late February Iqaluit received approval from the Government of Nunavut to turn the treatment plant back on, according to the city’s director of capital planning Sumon Ghosh.

“We have everything lined up,” Ghosh said at Tuesday’s Iqaluit city council meeting.

“I don’t see any other issues coming up in starting that operation March 3.”

Fuel contaminated the city’s water supply from two separate sources four months apart in 2021 and 2022.

The first contamination event was in October 2021, when a 60-year-old fuel drum left in the ground leaked and its contents found their way from an air barrier between bedrock and the treatment plant.

The fuel then moved into one underground tank, which led to a larger contamination in the North Clear Well, a tank where water is treated.

The Nunavut government lifted the do-not-consume order on Dec. 10, 2021, about two months after the city announced there was probably fuel contamination.

Six days later, the city’s water testing system detected fuel and bypassed the water plant, sending raw water from Lake Geraldine to taps around the city until Jan. 17, 2022.

Residents started smelling fuel in the water again, and on Jan. 22 the city bypassed the plant again.

This time, the contamination was caused by a black tar substance that became exposed when one of the tank’s concrete walls cracked.

Since then, the water treatment plant has been offline.

The city hired Tower Arctic Ltd. for $800,000 in the summer to clean the tanks, apply a protective coating and do other repairs.

The last of the work Ghosh said was finished in late 2022 involved a filter media, which is a mixture of sand and anthracite that catches solids when raw water passes through it, Ghosh wrote in an email.

Anthracite, a type of charcoal, is being used because it has the ability to catch some hydrocarbons, Ghosh wrote.

Now that council has approved the water treatment plant coming back online, the city will work on trial runs, such as making sure the S::can monitoring system is working, and awaiting test results from a lab in Ottawa.

“Then we can declare everything is normal now and there are no issues,” Ghosh said.

David Venn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News