NNSL Photo/Graphic
Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size
Boil water advisory issued for Sanikiluaq

Jessica Davey-Quantick
Northern News Services
Monday, August 29, 2016

A boil water advisory was issued in Sanikiluaq after E. coli was found in the hamlet office last week. However, officials say it's nothing to worry about.

"This is precautionary. We work with the Department of Health very closely when it comes to issuing advisories, especially this time of year when water levels could be down, it's summertime. Boil water advisories are very common in Nunavut and in Canada and other territories. It's a very common thing to happen," said Chris Mullaly, a policy analyst and communications officer for the Department of Community Government Services (CGS).

According to both CGS and the Department of Health, no bacteria was found in the community's water supply and no one at press time had reported illness related to the contamination.

"So there's no cause for alarm ... this advisory, it was done as a precaution in the best interest for public health and safety," said Mullaly.

The alarm was raised after Escherichia coli, commonly called E. coli, a member of the coliform bacteria group, usually found in the intestines of humans and animals, was discovered in the hallway of the hamlet office.

How it got there is still a matter of speculation. Generally E. coli is spread through improperly cooked beef, unpasteurized milk and juice, raw fruits and vegetables and most commonly through feces. "That's been cleaned, and there's a low number of E. coli found there," said Mullaly.

Other coliform bacteria was discovered in the water fountain at Paatsaali High School. Although there was no E. coli discovered at the school, coliform is also most commonly found in feces. Mullaly says the fountain has been turned off and cleaned up.

Most strains of E. coli and most coliform bacteria are relatively hatrmless, but some types have been known to cause severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting.

This is the second time this summer the community's water has been under scrutiny.

In July, 215 homes were outfitted by CGS with custom designed reverse osmosis filtration systems to deal with high levels of sodium in Sanikiluaq's water. Residents continue to be advised not to consume water that comes from taps without these filtration systems.

CGS is still working with the housing authority to follow up with homeowners who were not available in July to complete the remaining installations. Mullaly says the two issues - the high sodium and the more recent bacteria - have nothing to do with each other. He says CGS is still waiting for the results from consultants about the cause of both the elevated sodium levels and the bacteria.

"The main concern right now of course is that there was a precautionary boil water advisory that we issued and that was done for public safety. There's been no illnesses, so I think that in terms of critical procedure the response was appropriate and we can evaluate over the next however long it takes to get these reports," he said.

The boil water advisory will remain in effect until those results come back. In the meantime, residents of Sanikiluaq are advised to boil all water for consumption at a rolling boil for at least one full minute, even if it comes from the reverse osmosis taps. The advisory issued by the Department of Health advises that water for drinking, preparing infant formulas, ice cubes and juice, washing fruits and vegetables, cooking and brushing teeth all must be boiled.

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.