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Arviat's water: good or bad?

Jillian Dickens
Northern News Services

Arviat (May 03/06) - The people of Arviat would prefer to gather fresh drinking water themselves rather than use the community supply, which MLA David Alagalak says is foul tasting and full of sediment.

And he is demanding the Nunavut government fix the problem. Last December, Alagalak raised the issue in the legislative assembly.

Community and Government Services Minister Levinia Brown informed him of the $25,000 study the GN had completed on Arviat's water supply, and promised to provide Alagalak with the results.

Four months later, Alagalak still has seen nothing.

"I've been begging for it, but I haven't received it yet," said Alagalak. That doesn't go over well with him.

"I'm not satisfied with this process.

"The government tends to spend more and more money on studies, which don't solve the problem, but only propose to solve it. It is not a good way to ration the GN money."

Community and Government Services Deputy Minister Tom Rich explained the report hasn't been sent out because it is highly technical and requires explanation. The department was planning to meet with the MLA to explain the study results.

In short, says Rich, the results show no problems with the water supply.

"This is simply a taste issue, not a health issue. And some people are more sensitive to the taste than others," said Rich. Rich says he's had plenty of Arviat water and it tasted fine to him.

"I didn't notice anything different about it," he said.

The water reservoirs are filled right before freeze up from the shallow waters of Wolf Creek. Towards the end of winter, when the tanks are halfway drained, the sediment coming from the creek is concentrated, resulting in poor tasting, discoloured water, said Alagalak.

"It's poor tasting and most people won't drink it at all. When you make tea with it, the tea looks really strong and dark, but it's not. It's just the water making it look that way."

Alagalak says the solution is to take water from one of the large lakes further from the community. This would require a piping system, water house and road access.

"I don't understand why the government hasn't moved towards getting better quality and quantity water from he lakes," Alagalak said. "The road access would not only be good for the water supply, but also allow hunters greater access to the lakes for fishing, and for community post camps and other recreational activities can be established there as well."

Rich says at certain times of the year the water can taste poor and have some odour, but that is more due to the lack of aeration when the ice is formed over the creek, than the source itself.

"Any source of water with an ice covering could have that problem," he said.

"The primary issue is if there is a health concern. The second is the quantity. Neither of those issues are a concern now.

"But we are willing to work with the community to correct other issues."

He says the most likely way to address taste, colour and odour issues would be through a filtration system.