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Military suspends Iqaluit water treatment system as high winds blow down tent

Click to play video: 'Contaminated Iqaluit water tank isolated following initial inspection' Contaminated Iqaluit water tank isolated following initial inspection
WATCH ABOVE: Contaminated Iqaluit water tank isolated following initial inspection – Oct 22, 2021

The Canadian military says it has temporarily stopped its water treatment operations in Iqaluit after high winds knocked down one of its tents.

The tent, covering holding tanks filled with purified water from a nearby river, was knocked down Monday night.

Iqaluit residents haven’t been able to consume their tap water for more than 40 days after it was found to contain fuel.

The federal government sent the military to Iqaluit on Oct. 23 to help with the water emergency, including using a reverse-osmosis system to pump and treat water from the Sylvia Grinnell River.

Read more: Iqaluit’s arctic temperatures hamper military efforts to fix water crisis

Military spokesperson Maj. Susan Magill said all treated water in the tanks had to be released to prevent it from freezing.

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“The frame of the tent basically snapped under the force of the wind,” Magill said Wednesday.

She said the broken tents are covering the tanks used to hold the treated water. When they are standing, the tents are heated. The treated water is now exposed to the cold and will freeze, she said.

A second tent holding the water treatment system itself is still intact, but Magill said all equipment will need to be inspected before operations can start again.

“If the weather permits, they’ll be able to remove the equipment from the site and assess the damage,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Nunavut chief public health officer on Iqaluit water contamination' Nunavut chief public health officer on Iqaluit water contamination
Nunavut chief public health officer on Iqaluit water contamination – Oct 16, 2021

Magill said a new tent has been ordered, which could arrive on the next flight to Iqaluit, but there is no timeline for when the system will be operational again.

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The military, she said, is hopeful the tanks covered by the broken tent will be usable as soon as a new tent arrives.

The City of Iqaluit said in a statement that water distribution would be extended to 8 p.m. Wednesday.

“Rest assured, there is an ample supply of bottled water in Iqaluit to ensure the continued consistency (of) water distribution services,” reads the statement.

Read more: Underground fuel spill likely responsible for Iqaluit water contamination: officials

Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell said in a separate statement that he has asked city staff to start handing out bottled water every day.

He added that the city is looking to hire people to hand out water and has also asked the Nunavut government to help with staffing.

Environment Canada had issued a winter storm warning earlier this week about heavy winds and snowfall in Iqaluit.

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