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Pond Inlet doesn't know how it will get water if its infrastructure isn't fixed soon

“Eventually the trucks are going to go down through the ice. That’s what we are scared of,” said David Stockley, the senior administrative officer for Pond Inlet. For six months the community has been getting water by driving trucks on to the frozen reservoir and drilling a hole.

Water trucks have been driving onto the ice to access the supply which they can't do for much longer

Hamlet employees in Pond Inlet drilling a hole in the reservoir lake to access the water. They have done this every day since October to provide drinking water to the community. (Submitted by David Stockley)

Pond Inlet is worried it won't be able to access its water supply if it doesn't get a temporary pumping system in place before spring thaw in a matter of weeks. 

Since the fall, the community has been manually pumping water from the reservoir into its water trucks. Everyday a public works foreman has to use an auger to drill a hole through the ice on its reservoir lake to access the water. They then drive the water truck onto the ice to pump the water from the hole into the truck. The foreman then needs to climb on top of the truck to chlorinate and test the water. 

"Eventually the trucks are going to go down through the ice. That's what we are scared of," said David Stockley, the senior administrative officer for Pond Inlet. 

"I have been pushing the government now for six months to try and do something. Because what is going to happen is someone is going to die."

Pond Inlet hamlet employee on top of a water truck chlorinating the drinking water by hand. The hamlet's water station is designed to automatically chlorinate the water going into the trucks. However, this hasn't been happening since the pump from the reservoir to the station froze and broke in October. (Submitted by David Stockley)

Pond Inlet's water treatment plant is designed to pump and treat water from the reservoir into the water trucks at the station. But in October the pump froze and broke because the trace heater to the pipe wasn't connected due to a shoddy electrical work at the station. 

Stockley describes the state of Pond Inlet's water treatment station as "the worst I've ever seen". He says cardboard is used as the cover for the electrical panel and the end of the pipe where the water should be released into the trucks is badly rusted. 

He described these problems in an email to the Department of Community and Government Services on Oct. 14. In the email, he also tells the department about the broken pump and how they are manually extracting water from the reservoir. 

"I'm just totally amazed that no one was electrocuted," said Stockley. 

During a routine inspection of the water station by the Nunavut government's Department of Health on March. 12., the inspector wrote that the way things are being done now is "not safe".

The inspector also wrote, "this also adds extra time and is putting a strain on timely water delivery for the community, and the hamlet's resources." 

Hamlet employee testing the chlorinated water from the truck. Workers have been manually adding chlorine to the community's drinking water since the pump to the water station broke in October. (Submitted by David Stockley)

How the water infrastructure will be fixed 

The Department of Community and Government Services says it is working on bringing a pumping station to Pond Inlet to ensure it is  able to access the water supply. 

Kyle Seeley, spokesperson for the department, says the pump will go under the ice and will allow the water trucks to fill up from the shore of the reservoir. 

Seeley says this will be a temporary set up until it is finished fixing the broken line to the water station. Seeley says the equipment for this temporary fix has been ordered and local workers will be able to set it up. 

"The risks of not having drinking water are just too high, we need to get the equipment up there," said Seeley. 

Over the summer the department says it will work on replacing the line from the reservoir to the water treatment plant to get the facility functioning as normal. In order to do this Pond Inlet will need to use an alternative water supply this summer. 

Pond Inlet has been manually extracting water from its reservoir. Hamlet employees drill a hole in the ice then reverse the water pump to extract water from the lake. (Submitted by David Stockley)

Seeley says there is a water supply identified, but was unable to say where it is at the time of the interview. 

In order to replace the intake pipe the reservoir will need to be partly drained stirring up sediment in the water making it undrinkable while the work is being done. 

The government of Nunavut has put in a travel ban to the territory because of COVID-19. Only essential workers and residents are allowed in. 

Seeley says they will comply with any travel order in place if they need to bring workers in to fix the issue, but it is too soon to tell if this will impact the repairs. 

However, Pond Inlet's SAO and MLA are worried these fixes are happening too late. 

Pond Inlet's MLA David Qamaniq asked the minister of Community and Government Services in the legislature on March. 2., what the department is doing to fix the water station. 

Pond Inlet hamlet employee filling a water truck from a hole made in the reservoir. (Submitted by David Stockley)

Qamaniq also wrote a letter to Lorne Kusugak on March 10, from which he says he hasn't heard back. 

"We are using a lot more water than before because of COVID-19 and I hope CGS will fix our water station issue before the ice thaws out," said Qamaniq. 

Qamaniq says Pond Inlet may end up in a water emergency if Community and Government Services doesn't get the repairs done soon. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jackie McKay

Reporter

Jackie McKay is a Métis journalist working for CBC in Nunavut. She has worked as a reporter in Thunder Bay, Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Iqaluit. Jackie also worked on CBC Radio One shows including The Current, Metro Morning, after graduating from Ryerson University in 2017. Follow her on Twitter @mckayjacqueline.

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