I was doing my usual TikTok scrolling when I stumbled upon this bit of news. TikToker Annie Buscemi shared that the City of Iqaluit had declared a state of emergency due to petroleum being in the drinking water. Annie, who is Inuk, is one of the residents of Iqaluit, which has a population including almost 60% Indigenous People.
“The City of Iqaluit has issued a state of emergency. There’s been evidence of petroleum hydrocarbons found in our treated water supply; meaning that all water from our taps is unsafe to consume even if boiled. There have been reports from Iqaluit residents over the past ten days, and the state of emergency was only announced today. Residents have been scrambling to get water from the river and from the stores, who have, unsurprisingly, jacked up their water prices. There’s literal fuel in our water supply. I’m not exactly sure how long this crisis will last, but I’m hoping sooner rather than later it will be resolved.”
Annie’s video inspired me to try to find some news articles about this. Her video was published five days ago from the time I’m writing this, and information on the crisis is scarce. The Nunatsiaq News reported a week ago that the Nunavut government told residents not to drink tap water and that Iqaluit declared a state of emergency.
The article confirmed Annie’s statement and noted that petroleum may have entered the water supply. The article also stated that there was no information as to how it got in the water supply or when it happened — residents could have been drinking contaminated water without realizing it. Amy Elgersma, the city’s senior administrative officer, said: “We suspect that there is petroleum — some type of petroleum product — that has entered the water system.”
A day later, GreenMatters reported that the water crisis in Iqaluit was possibly caused by a massive gasoline spill. The article noted that residents have been advised against drinking, boiling, and cooking the city’s tap water. Another news article from Global News stated that residents were complaining that their water smelled like fuel. Water tests were performed and the government found alarming levels of gasoline in the water supply. In that article, the government said that testing came back clear but still advised residents not to drink the tap water.
In a followup article published yesterday, Global News reported that city officials later said testing revealed a high concentration of various fuel components in a tank that supplies the water. Fortunately, they were able to isolate and bypass the tank. Once it is emptied and flushed, authorities will investigate where the contaminants came from.
Global News also added that the water isn’t just used for drinking. Residents are being advised not to cook or even clean their food with tap water. Bathing, showering, laundry, and washing dishes are fine, according to the city. Personally, I disagree — who would want to shower or wash their clothes in water contaminated with gasoline?
How You Can Help The Community Of Iqaluit
The community of Iqaluit has around 8,000 residents and they need water. Annie shared a link to a GoFundMe which has gained traction thanks to her video going viral on TikTok. If you would like to donate, you can do so here. In her update video, she noted that each household received 16 liters of water, which is being flown in. So far, donations have topped $60,000 CAD and the money was used to purchase the following:
- 150 of the 11-15 liter reusable water jugs
- 110 water pump jug dispensers
- 49 shower bags
- 100 water dispensers for in the fridge
- 32 cases of ready to drink formula
- 11 stock pots for boiling water.
They plan to order more jugs, pumps, pots, and any other items that the community members may need. In an update posted on October 18, Andrea Anderson, who organized the GoFundMe, shared photos and an update. So far, they have delivered to 198 homes and their next shipment arrives on Wednesday.
How come this isn’t on national news? Gasoline being in drinking water is definitely front-page news, yet I didn’t find out about it until I saw Annie’s video. Also, BIPOC, in general, is a vulnerable group in regards to these types of disasters — especially climate disasters and fossil fuel leaks.
A similar disaster is an oil spill away from happening to the Anishinaabe People, with Enbridge building a crude oil pipeline on their territory. Pipeline 3 crosses over 200 waterways, including the headwaters of the Mississippi River, which is my own drinking water supply. It supplies drinking water to over 18 million Americans.
The fact that these residents could have been drinking water contaminated with gasoline without realizing it is downright scary. What’s worse is that the media isn’t reporting on this, and President Biden’s administration chose to allow Enbridge to rob the Anishinaabe People of their land in favor of fossil fuels.