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City of Iqaluit votes to offer blanket rebate on water bills

·3 min read
Members of the Iqaluit Fire Department assist with flushing the city's water pipes in Iqaluit on Wednesday. Flushing will wrap up Thursday, the city said. (Dustin Patar/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Members of the Iqaluit Fire Department assist with flushing the city's water pipes in Iqaluit on Wednesday. Flushing will wrap up Thursday, the city said. (Dustin Patar/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Iqaluit's city council voted unanimously Tuesday to provide a water rebate for residents.

Nearly 8,000 residents were ordered not to drink the tap water when fuel was discovered in one of the city's two water tanks at its water treatment plant earlier this month.

The 100 per cent rebate was proposed by Mayor Kenny Bell. It will cost the city over $965,000 in revenue for the month of October.

Bell said the crisis has cost the city around $3 million so far, including the water rebate, and that the city hasn't figured out how it will recover that money.

"It's going to be a huge loss [in] costs for the city for the month. But you know, the citizens deserve a break," he said.

"It's been a rough month for everybody. And now everyone can at least relax on their water bill for this month."

Dustin Patar/The Canadian Press
Dustin Patar/The Canadian Press

Bell said the city will be talking to the territorial and federal governments for financial help.

"We're hoping that one of the governments will be able to help us out ... to ensure we can still continue to provide good services."

Bell said if the tap water is still undrinkable next month, the city will look at more rebates.

"If we're not allowed to drink or water, we shouldn't be paying for it," he said.

310,000L of water distributed

Stephanie Clark, the director of recreation, said during her update on water distribution to city council that residents have been provided more than 310,000 litres of bottled water.

"We are also working with local organizations to ensure that elders and other vulnerable groups are receiving bottles of water daily," she said.

Earlier this week, Amy Elgersma, the city's chief administrative officer, told CBC News that an underground fuel spill found near the water treatment plant could explain how fuel got into the water supply.

The city has reported the spill to the Nunavut government and a firm has been hired to manage and remove the spill.

Testing is ongoing and water from the treatment plant is still unsafe to drink.

The city has been in a state of emergency since Oct. 12.

On Thursday, the Nunavut government extended its state of emergency for Iqaluit for another two weeks, to Nov. 11.

Military looks to set up water purification units

Canadian Armed Forces Major Scott Purcell said the military is working with the City of Iqaluit to find places to set up the water purification units that were sent to the city in recent days.

Possible options are Lake Geraldine, the city's usual water supply, or the Sylvia Grinnell River, where people have been gathering water since the crisis began.

The military sent reverse osmosis water purification units to Iqaluit over the weekend, at the request of the Nunavut government.

David Gunn/CBC
David Gunn/CBC

Purcell said the system is usually sent abroad to help countries in need.

"It is a [historic] moment in the fact that we haven't, from my knowledge … used these systems in Canada to support the citizens," he said.

"It is not lost on the operators here what they are going to accomplish here when they start producing water for the people here to drink."

As of Wednesday, there was no timeline on when the military's water treatment system would be up and running.

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