Some Rankin Inlet residents were outraged when they found out that thousands of bottles of fresh water had been tossed out at the local dump earlier this month
The Northern Store threw out more than 3,000 water bottles still in their packaging on Aug. 14.
In an email to Kivalliq News, Ellen Curtis, manager of internal communication with the Northwest Company, said the water could not be sold because it had become cloudy.
“We discovered cloudiness in the water that made it undesirable,” she wrote.
“We discarded the affected bottles at the landfill, with arrangements from them to be buried the same day,” Curtis said.
A post by a resident on the Rankin Inlet News Facebook page had dozens of comments discussing the issue from community members on the evening of Aug. 14 before it was eventually removed from the page.
Hilary Tulugak said she went to pick up a few dozen cases of water when she saw the post on Facebook.
“I said to my mom come, hurry, let’s go there’s water at the dump,” said Tulugak. “I drink a lot of water so I filled the back seat of the truck with water and got some for my aunt and uncles and a few for my parent’s place.
“I think it was kind of crazy. They should have given out the cases of water for free. I don’t know the policies or the regulations. It’s kind of rude to just throw it all out at the dump.”
Curtis said it not common for the Northern Store to dispose of its goods without a reason.
“Typically we work with community organizations to donate food that is safe for consumption but not saleable. In this instance, a pallet of water was inadvertently overlooked and left in an unheated warehouse over the winter.”
Curtis said the cloudiness was caused by a mineral buildup due to the freeze/thaw cycling and only occurred in one partial pallet, accounting for approximately 140 cases of 24 packs of water.
“Because the water had a cloudy appearance, our staff determined it was best to dispose rather than donate. While we regret the waste, this was an unusual circumstance for us and we made our decisions with the best interests of the community in mind,” said Curtis.
Tulugak said there about 10 other people who were also filling up their vehicles with cases when she was at the dump.
She said it’s not surprising to see people lining up to get free bottles of water, especially with restrictions on drinking fountains at schools during the pandemic.
“I have an eight-year old and a soon to be 14-year-old, so they can bring water to school now,” she said. “We need bottled water so much more, especially with this pandemic.”
Tulugak said the water seemed fine to drink and she has already finished a case.
“There is nothing wrong with them,” she said.
Curtis said the cloudiness is not a danger to people.
“It is caused by naturally occurring minerals found in water and is safe to drink,” she said.
Curtis added that the North West Company takes food security very seriously. According to her email, between The North West Company and The Sprott Foundation/Second Harvest, $45,000 worth of food and food vouchers were donated to Rankin Inlet in July, with $15,000 going to the food bank.