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Fuel fumes force total closure of western Nunavut health centre

Fumes from a recent fuel spill at the now-closed health centre in Taloyoak have become so intense that a fire crew is keeping watch over the building, says Nunavut's Community and Government Services department.

Fire crew keeping watch over building

Taloyoak's health centre, built in 2015, is named after Judy Hill, a nurse who died in a medevac plane crash in 1972. (Government of Nunavut)

Fumes from a recent fuel spill at the now-closed health centre in Taloyoak have become so intense that a fire crew is keeping watch over the building, says Nunavut's Community and Government Services (CGS) department.

That's "to mitigate risks of fire," according to a Sept. 1 email from Suleikha Duale, a spokesperson for CGS.

A fuel spill in the recently built health centre prompted the health department to transfer patient services to the community's old health centre on Aug. 18.

On Aug. 29, the entire health centre had to be shut down, "as fumes were reported to be making the site unusable, which includes Health Services and staff accommodations," Duale stated.

Duale added CGS and the health department are now working to relocate staff and facilitate the clean-up of fuel residue in the interior and exterior of the building.

CGS has not said how much fuel was spilled, but Duale said the department has hired an environmental firm and asked them "to prioritize interior clean-up."

However, the cleanup firm is expected to leave in mid-September "due to a lack of local accommodation," she wrote.

Taloyoak Mayor Chuck Pizzo-Lyall said it's true his community of about 1,100 has a big housing shortage.

There hasn't been any new public housing built in Taloyoak in four years. Residents live in overcrowded units, and the hotel's capacity is small, he said on Friday.

The health centre also contained apartments for its staff, who can no longer remain there and have been forced to move from the centre.

"This is a really nice, new building — a new facility," Pizzo-Lyall said of the health centre. "It's very unfortunate that this happened."

Pizzo-Lyall said it's the second fuel spill at the health centre, which was built in 2015.

It is likely to remain closed until tests show the air quality inside has improved, Duale wrote.

Carbon-activated filters and HEPA recycling air fans will be used to improve external and internal air quality as fast as possible.

"Subject to favourable air test results, the health centre and residence are expected to resume its operations in the fall," Duale wrote.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jane George is a reporter with CBC Nunavut. Prior to August 2021, George worked at Nunatsiaq News for more than 20 years, winning numerous community newspaper awards.

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