The Canadian Armed Forces says its members have arrived in Nunavut’s capital to assist with the city’s ongoing water emergency.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted Friday that he had spoken with Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq and the military would be deployed to Iqaluit to co-ordinate and deliver clean drinking water.
Late Saturday, the military tweeted that there are over 20 Canadian Armed Forces members in Iqaluit setting up deployable equipment for reverse osmosis water purification.
Iqaluit’s 8,000 residents haven’t been able to consume tainted tap water for nearly two weeks after fuel was found in samples.
Residents have been collecting water from the city’s Sylvia Grinnell River and picking up free bottled water from distribution sites, and local officials say they’re continuing efforts to identify the source of the contamination.
In a news release Sunday, the city says the investigation to date has pointed to potential hydrocarbon contamination in the soil or ground water outside the municipal water treatment plant, which it says may have leached into a storage tank.
“The in-ground tank containing the high concentrations of contaminants in the Water Treatment Plant has been isolated, pumped out for remediation and has undergone cleaning,” the release stated.
“The affected tank has been successfully bypassed and water continues to be treated and sent out to the City’s distribution system.”
The system has been flushed out, but the city says it will need to be done again and an order not to consume the water remains in place.
Amy Elgersma, the city’s chief administrative officer, said last week that an assessment found “no obvious cracks” in the contaminated tank.
The territory’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, told a news conference Friday that residents may still smell fuel in their water even though the city has bypassed the contaminated tank.
Patterson has said the health risks to residents who drank the city’s tap water are very low.
Sunday’s news release from the city noted that an environmental site assessment is underway where contractors will drill for soil and water samples around the treatment plant. It said the next steps are dependent on the test results.
“We will take direction from our experts on actions required to remediate the site,” the release stated.
It also noted the city installed a “real time water monitoring station focusing detecting and trending hydrocarbons” on Sunday. It said the monitoring station “will allow the city to obtain real-time information on hydrocarbon levels.”