North

New military tent on the way to Iqaluit after wind causes damage, halts water purification operations

The Canadian Armed Forces' water operations in Iqaluit — which are aiding in a city-wide and weeks-long water crisis — had to be suspended after one of the tents that help heat the site was damaged by wind.

'Rest assured, there is an ample supply of bottled water in Iqaluit,' city says

The storm-damaged tent over the military's reverse osmosis water treatment operation. The Canadian military has been providing potable water to residents since fuel infiltrated the city's water treatment plant in early October. (David Gunn/CBC)

A new tent is being shipped to Iqaluit on the next available flight so that the military can reset up its water purification site.

The Canadian Armed Forces' water operations in Iqaluit — which is aiding in a city-wide and weeks-long water crisis — had to be suspended after one of the tents that help heat the site broke.

On Monday, a winter storm hit Iqaluit, bringing with it high winds reaching up to 80 km/h, with 100 km/h gusts, said Major Susan Magill, a public affairs officer for Joint Task Force North. 

The forceful winds snapped the middle frames that hold tent together, which is heated to prevent the purified water from freezing.

The Canadian Armed Forces' water operations in Iqaluit had to be suspended after one of the tents that help heat the site broke. (David Gunn/CBC)

"When the tent broke, and we could no longer protect the water, we had to suspend water purification operations," Magill said.

She said they "don't believe it is repairable at this point."

The military has been treating water taken from the Sylvia Grinnell River since Nov. 9, about four weeks after Iqaluit's water was discovered to have been contaminated with fuel. 

The water is treated via reverse osmosis and put into designated city water trucks that carry it to water filling depots around town. Residents have also been able to pick up flats of bottled water multiple times a week. 

The city had warned residents ahead of the storm to stock up on about 72 hours worth of water.

In a tweet Wednesday, Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell said he's directed his staff to distribute bottled water every day while the military operation is down. 

High winds reaching up to 80 km/h, with 100 km/h gusts, are to blame, the military says, for breaking one of the tents that help heat the water purification site. (David Gunn/CBC)

"I've also asked the Government of Nunavut Department of [Community and Government Services] for some staff to help us in the undertaking," Bell wrote.

For now, the city has extended the hours for bottled water pickup 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 a statement issued by the city's communications manager. 

Ready to restart

The unit holding the raw water waiting to be treated through reverse osmosis is still in working condition, Magill said, along with the heated tent protecting it. It's the tent covering the purified water that's in trouble, though it's still on site while the damage is assessed.

Magill said there's no date yet for when the new tent will arrive.

"In the interim, the engineers, the operators on site are coordinating the tanks and getting everything in preparation so that as soon as the tents arrive, and the tents can be erected ... we can start operations again," Magill said.

Magill also said that the request for military assistance in Iqaluit has been extended until Dec. 1

With files from Elena Akammak

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