NW Week

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The military’s efforts to purify the Iqaluit River’s water

Iqaluit River's water

Key Takeaways:

  • As city employees are reassigned to crises, the Iqaluit fitness center has closed, and some arena rentals have been suspended.
  • The purified water will then be transported out of the facility by water trucks from the City of Iqaluit for local distribution.

The Canadian Army Forces are finalizing plans to relocate its water purification efforts in Iqaluit to an existing military facility, seven weeks into the city’s drinking water crisis, as its water remains unsafe to drink.

The original plan, which involved using a reverse osmosis water purifier at the Sylvia Grinnell River, was foiled November 22 when a winter storm snapped the frame of a military tent that housed clean water bladders from the reverse osmosis system.

Another tent was scheduled to arrive, but with the arrival of winter, it became increasingly difficult to keep the reverse osmosis system at the Sylvia Grinnell River operational. It’s warmer than usual in Iqaluit right now, but it’s still cold. Temperatures were -14°C in the afternoon of November 30. The wind chill for the morning of December 1 is expected to drop temperatures to -28°C.

Members of Task Force Iqaluit are now preparing to transport river water to the facility for purification using military truck-mounted water containers.

Maj. Susan Magill, the senior public affairs officer for Joint Task Force North, wrote in an email  that bringing the purification units into a protected environment means limiting Task Force Iqaluit members’ exposure to extreme weather.

“Due to the extreme wind chill, significant and extreme winds in the region became a hazard to personnel and posed a significant risk of damaging the reverse osmosis units,” according to Magill. Since November 9, about four weeks after Iqaluit’s water was discovered to be contaminated with fuel, the military has been treating water taken from the Sylvia Grinnell River.

The water is treated using reverse osmosis before being loaded into designated city water trucks that transport it to water filling stations throughout town. Residents can also pick up flats of bottled water several times per week.

The City of Iqaluit announced on November 30 that it is temporarily suspending some recreation services so that its staff can continue to assist with the water crisis.

This means that the fitness center will be closed to all drop-in and pre-registered programming, and the city will suspend all arena rentals between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. After 5 p.m., rentals will still be available. Saturday and Sunday are off.

Source: CBC News

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