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A single water truck separates Kinngait from having to fly in bottled water

Water delivery is one truck away from crisis levels in Kinngait.

Due to breakdowns, the hamlet is relying solely on its newest water truck, a 2019 model, and that vehicle is being pushed hard to do the work that three trucks would normally do.

Kinngait is relying on a single water truck, similar to this one, to serve the entire community of 1,450 people. The three other water trucks in the hamlet's fleet are all unavailable due to mechanical issues.
photo courtesy of Mike Richards

“We're operating that truck for 16 to 24 hours per day, depending on the need,” said John Hussey, Kinngait's senior administrative officer.

If that last operating water truck should happen to break down, the Department of Community and Government Services will fly bottled water into Kinngait to ensure residents do not go without, Hussey said.

“I hope we don't have to do that because that's a big step to have to take, have a planeload of water come in here,” said Hussey. “We're still asking people to conserve water and they are. They're being nice about it... and, of course, we've got to keep the RCMP and the health centre with water at all times, and the airport.”

The community's three other water trucks – of 2011-2018 vintage, of which the oldest is a backup – need new parts. A replacement engine from the United States is required for one, a new oil pan for another. Orders have been placed, but it will take a couple of weeks for the parts to arrive, said Hussey.

“Within two weeks we should be up to speed, hopefully,” he said.

Some residents in the community of 1,450 have been calling the municipal office to lodge complaints over the long waits for water service, the SAO acknowledged. The community's Facebook page – Kinngarni Odds and Ends – has numerous posts from people requesting water delivery – some mentioning that they have been waiting for days, others indicating that there's a baby in the household.

Getting mechanics to diagnose and fix the water truck problems comes at a high price and it took a long time to arrange. The hamlet, which has been without its own mechanic on staff for months, had to fly in a pair of technicians from Hay River, NWT.

“What choice do you have? At the end of the day, it's an expense but you've got to do it,” Hussey said.

The mechanics are now gone to help out in other Nunavut communities but they'll return when the parts come in, said Hussey.

The hamlet has recently been negotiating with a repairman who lives in Iqaluit to relocate to Kinngait. A three-month trial period between the parties will begin next week, the SAO said. The municipality would love to have a local individual rise through the trades to become a certified mechanic and one young man has expressed interest, Hussey added.

“Maybe in about five years we'll have him up to speed as a full-time, red-seal mechanic,” he said.

Beyond the needed repairs, a new water truck and a new sewage truck are due to arrive on sealift in September, Hussey noted.

Water delivery woes are not new to Kinngait. Mayor Timoon Toonoo cited the issue as one of his priorities after being elected in December 2017. Toonoo is currently serving his second term in office. He was unavailable for comment because he was out hunting, a hamlet staff member said.

About the Author: Derek Neary

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