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Canada: Residents in Iqaluit left without drinking water
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It comes as public health officials issued an emergency warning to 8,000 residents in the northern city of Iqaluit not to use tap water for drinking, showering and cooking because of suspected fuel contamination in the city’s water supply. This is despite Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledging to solve the crisis by March 2021 – an issue which disproportionately impacts indegenous communities.
The city’s emergency was declared last Monday after residents complained of a fuel-like odour coming from their tap water.
Despite repeated warnings from residents in the weeks proceeding the emergency, officials insisted the water was safe to drink, though this decision was scrapped in a major U-turn.
The announcement sparked a panic-buying spree of bottled water and jugs, causing the town to run out of supplies by Wednesday.
Amid the chaos, the city has provided residents treated water from water dispensing stations, but people have to queue up and wait their turn in order to access this.
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Others have been forced to go to a nearby river to collect vital water supplies over the health dangers posed by the contaminated water.
Over 21,000 gallons of water have been flown in by plane to cope with the crisis.
Authorities in the city announced on Friday that the reason for the contamination is leakage of fuel at the city’s water treatment plant.
The town’s water board identified high concentrations of hydrocarbons, consistent with diesel fuel or kerosene, in water samples.
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It comes as Justin Trudeau was slammed for the chaos by a local paediatrician, Dr Holden Sheffield, who said: “I am sending out a message to federal leaders about the situation and hoping for action to look at the bigger picture and how can solve this!”
While Priscilla Cooke, a nurse, told Canada’s Globe and Mail: “In the operating room it has kind of grinded to a halt. We’re only doing emergency life-and-limb service right now. We’re on standby for that. We have no means of sterilising our instruments and equipment!”
The crisis comes despite Canada being one of the world’s most water-rich countries on earth.
But access to clean and affordable water is not equal in Canada and has been a major pressure point for politicians.
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Water on Indigenous peoples’ reserves has been contaminated for decades with various chemicals or bacteria often found in the water systems.
This is down to poor management of water infrastructure in the Arctic region where many communities are based.
It comes as the Council of Canadians, a social justice group that represents the communities, reported that seventy-three percent of the First Nations’ water systems are at a “high or medium risk of contamination”.
In 2015, Prime Minister Trudeau campaigned on a promise to end all long-term drinking-water warnings to Indigenous communities and First Nations reserves by March 2021. But this deadline has now been pushed back by Mr Trudeau’s administration who have been unable to deliver on the election promise.
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