Equipment failure causes heating system leak in Rankin Inlet, Northern Canada

The leak was first discovered at 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 3. (Juanita Taylor/CBC)
An equipment failure in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, in Northern Canada, has resulted in the leak of tens of thousands of litres of propylene glycol near the local health centre, according to a statement from Qulliq Energy Corporation (QEC) Friday afternoon.

QEC said an investigation was launched after a leak was discovered in the district heating system — which distributes heat from the local power plant to buildings around the community — around 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 3.

The leak was located in a section of buried pipeline connected to the health centre.

Between 15,000 and 20,000 litres of propylene glycol, mixed with an equivalent amount of water, “may have leaked” from the system, QEC said in the statement.

“The affected portion of the [system] was promptly isolated and emptied,” said the statement. “QEC has reported the incident to authorities and continues to closely monitor the situation.”

“Relatively non-toxic”

According to the statement, propylene glycol is a “relatively non-toxic” chemical used as a food additive and as a critical ingredient in antifreeze. It is “clear, odourless, tasteless liquid that readily dissolves in water.”

QEC said it uses the chemical in the system “because of its ability to transfer large amounts of heat.” As yet, QEC said there is “no evidence” of the spill “moving through the ground or reaching the surface.”

“At this time of year, the DHS pipeline is frozen underground, making inspection difficult,” the statement read. “QEC has determined that the best option is to wait until spring, when conditions allow for a full assessment, to determine any impact.”

The government-owned corporation says it will provide an update once a full assessment has been completed.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: City council of Iqaluit, Arctic Canada moves to ban single-use plastic bags, CBC News

Finland: Thousands of fish in Finnish lake dead from unknown cause, Yle News

Iceland: Iceland to host international symposium on plastics in Arctic and sub-Arctic, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Polar bears greatly exposed to toxic chemicals in eastern Barents Sea, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russian Navy sends clean-up team to Arctic trash dump, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Oil spill cleanup ongoing in Sweden after freighter runs aground, Radio Sweden

United States: Remembering the lessons of the Exxon Valdez disaster, 30 years later, Alaska Public Media

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