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Some water treatment plants in Nunavut do not meet federal standards, says minister

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The front door of the local water plant on the Kugaaruk River in Kugaaruk, Nunavut, pictured Sept. 28, 2020. (John Last/CBC)

By TJ Dhir · CBC News

Four MLAs and MPs ask questions about the quality of drinking water in Nunavut

Nunavut MPs are putting pressure on a territorial minister over the quality of drinking water in the communities they represent.

For almost a week, several MPs questioned the Minister of Community and Government Services, David Joanasie, in the Legislative Assembly.

On Wednesday, Joanasie said some of the water treatment plants in the area were not up to standard.

“Although some of our water treatment plants do not meet current Canadian drinking water quality treatment guidelines, we do treat drinking water,” he said.

The issue was first raised last Thursday, the first day of the current session, by Uqqummiut MP Mary Killiktee. She asked Joanasie how the water treatment plants in the Clyde River and Qikiqtarjuaq communities are kept up to date and how they ensure the water is regularly tested.

Uqqummiut MP Mary Killiktee was the first Nunavut politician to ask about water quality in her constituency. (Travis Burke/CBC)

Joanasie said in Inuktitut that the water is constantly being tested and that they are working closely with the Ministry of Health. He also mentioned that the Government of Nunavut has allocated $125 million to ensure that each community's infrastructure is up to date.

Later in the meeting, Aivilik MP Solomon Malliki said CGS had issued a tender for the Coral Harbour water treatment plant.

When asked if the Coral Harbour plant was up to date, Joanasie said that drinking water regulations had evolved over time and that the GN was working to modernise the water treatment infrastructure.

The federal government recently announced $2 million to improve the water treatment plants in Clyde River, Coral Harbour and Igloolik, and planning and structural upgrades can begin at the plants in Arctic Bay, Grise Fiord, Pond Inlet, Rankin Inlet and Sanikiluaq.

Aivilik MP Solomon Malliki was the second politician to ask about water quality in his constituency. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

8 out of 25 facilities passed the health and safety tests

An NDP MP raised Nunavut's water problems in the House of Commons last Friday.

“Water is life and access to clean drinking water is a human right,” said Peter Julian. “But in Nunavut, only eight of 25 water treatment plants have passed their health and safety tests.”

Jenica Atwin, parliamentary secretary to the minister of Indigenous Services, said it was unacceptable that communities in Canada did not have access to clean drinking water.

“We will make sure we work with them to find an Indigenous and Inuit-led solution to this problem,” Atwin said.

Water flows from a faucet in the kitchen of CBC Nunavut in Iqaluit. Water quality in Nunavut was addressed by four Nunavut Territorial MPs and a federal NDP MP in the House of Commons. (Steve Silva/CBC)

When Julian's numbers were raised by Iqaluit-Sinaa MP Janet Brewster in the Nunavut Assembly, Joanasie said he agreed with those findings.

MPs look for “yes” or “no” answers

On Monday, Joanasie told the assembly that CGS will “move forward a number of water and wastewater treatment projects to ensure that Nunavummiut has ongoing access to clean drinking water and that our wastewater is effectively treated.”

He also mentioned that the Resolute Bay water treatment expansion project will be substantially completed by year-end.

Malliki asked Joanasie for a yes or no answer to the question of whether the Coral Harbour power plant met federal standards.

Joanasie said it does not comply with regulations.

David Joanasie, Nunavut's minister of community and government services, says the water in every community is tested daily and the government is working to improve its water treatment infrastructure. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

“But we are working hard to improve the quality to ensure that we have the highest quality water,” Joanasie concluded.

Malliki asked if the water in Coral Harbour and Naujaat was regularly tested and safe to drink. Joanasie did not respond, saying again that standards had been tightened.

Aggu MP Joanna Quassa also questioned Joanasie about the quality of drinking water in Igloolik.

Later in the week, Joanasie said water in all communities was safe to drink and the GN would issue boil water advisories if necessary. On Thursday, he also confirmed that while the water treatment plant in Igloolik did not meet Canadian water quality guidelines, the water quality was in line with requirements.

This article was republished from RCI.