Aupaluk residents fed up with lack of safe drinking water

Some communities in Nunavik do not have consistent access to water, which is often delivered by truck. (Félix Lebel/Radio-Canada)

By Samuel Wat · CBC News 

Rebecca Wynn describes what she sees coming out of her taps in Aupaluk, Que. as “yellow, pee-ish water.”

She said she also has to take medication before every shower, because of the amount of chlorine injected into the town’s water supply to kill off any bacteria.

“It gets angry red-coloured and I get super itchy. I already have a couple of different skin issues so [the water] is just exacerbating that,” Wynn said.

We can smell the fish in that water. We even get small fish in our water tanks.– David Angutinguak, Aupaluk mayor

For half the year, that’s the reality for the community’s 250 residents, situated on the shores of Ungava Bay.

In the summer, Aupaluk mayor David Angutinguak said they get clean drinking water from a river a couple of kilometres out of town, but access to that river freezes by November.

Until then, Angutinguak said they have to pump as much as they can into a water tower, hoping that’ll be enough to tie them over the following months.

A look at Rebecca Wynn’s water tank, filled with “yellow, pee-ish” coloured water. (Submitted by Rebecca Wynn)

Once that supply runs low, any water that isn’t for drinking is taken from a nearby lake and a different river, right by the township. That water, as Wynn described, looks yellow.

This year, the water in the water tower ran low earlier than expected. Angutinguak said they’ve had to order 200 five-gallon jugs of drinking water from the south.

Two water delivery trucks – but they’re broken

Aupaluk relies on two water trucks to deliver water.

One is indefinitely broken. The other, local mechanic Dany Nadeau said, breaks down at least once a week.

“Sometimes it can take two, three, four, five days for parts to arrive. You can’t do anything,” he said.

The road to the nearby Aupaluk lake has overflowed again, as of May 21, 2024. That has cut off access to that lake, where the town draws some of its water from. (Submitted by David Angutinguak)

That damage comes from the blowing snow, which Angutinguak said makes keeping the road to the lake open a challenge. That road is now cut off again this week because of water overflow.

“It’s a very painful job to do. We have to drive on the lake to get to the water. It’s not safe,” Nadeau said.

Aupaluk one of several towns with water woes

A third truck from the regional government was supposed to be on the way last year, but that was diverted to Inukjuak instead, which is also facing its own water problems.

It’s an issue that’s affected children’s education across Nunavik.

The river, that Aupaluk taps into when their cleaner water supply runs low, is right by the township. This water has chlorine added to kill off any bacteria. (Submitted by Rebecca Wynn)

The 18 schools run by the region’s school board were closed a total of 15 and a half days during the first eight months of the 2022-23 school year due to water, sewage or wastewater problems, according to Kativik Ilisarniliriniq, the regional school board.

Wynn is also a Grade 5 and 6 teacher at Aupaluk’s École Tarsakallak. Because of water outages, her school has had to shut down at least half a dozen times over the past few months, she said.

“It’s a safety hazard. You can’t wash your hands, you can’t flush the toilet,” she said.

Aupaluk resident Rebecca Wynn takes a look at one of the lakes the town draws its water from. (Submitted by Rebecca Wynn)

When will the new water truck and tower come?

Because of the water shortages, in addition to the dirtiness of the water when it is running, Wynn said they avoid using the taps when they can.

At school, they’ve switched to using disposable cutlery and bowls for their breakfast clubs to avoid washing.

“Now our dump is full of loose garbage … we can’t wash the spoons when we don’t have enough water.”

“And you see kids wearing the same clothes over and over again … because they’re not doing laundry as often,” she said.

The Kativik Regional Government says it’s up to each municipality to best use the support they offer. (Marc-André Turgeon/Radio-Canada)

Angutinguak understands some paperwork has been signed on a new water reservoir.

“I will believe it only when I see it,” he said.

The Kativik Regional Government did not provide comment on plans for a new water truck and reservoir in Aupaluk.

In a statement, chairperson Hilda Snowball said KRG offers technical assistance to communities on equipment operation, maintenance and repair.

But delivery of municipal services, like water delivery and sewage collection, is up to the municipality.

“We are reminded often that life in our northern villages is, at times, harsh and difficult, and the ability of a local municipality to provide and maintain essential services is challenging.”

Related stories from around the North: 

CanadaDisagreements between city, territory slowed Iqaluit water crisis response: report, CBC News

CBC News

For more news from Canada visit CBC News.

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.
Netiquette »

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *