Residents in parts of Yellowknife say tap water smells, tastes swampy

Haley Buckoll, who lives in Yellowknife's School Draw neighbourhood, said her water smells like a swamp.  (Luke Carroll/CBC - image credit)
Haley Buckoll, who lives in Yellowknife's School Draw neighbourhood, said her water smells like a swamp. (Luke Carroll/CBC - image credit)

Haley Buckoll, a Yellowknife resident, says her son was taking a shower on Wednesday evening when she noticed the water had a dirty, earthy smell, almost like a swamp.

"I thought for sure something was wrong with the shower drain and that we were having some weird backup under the house because it was so strong," she said.

"So I'm glad that it at least is not that."

Residents in the School Draw area, as well as parts of downtown and other areas of the city, have been reporting bad-smelling, bad-tasting water since Wednesday.

Chris Greencorn, Yellowknife's director of public works, said there is no concern with the water.

"The water is safe — we obviously do constant testing during these events," he said.

"If there was anything out of line, we would be contacting environmental health and issuing a boil water order, and we got no evidence whatsoever to do that."

Greencorn said the reason for the taste is because the city was switching its drinking water source from Yellowknife Bay, its backup source, to Yellowknife River, its primary one.

He said residents with strange-smelling water can run the pipes can help clear it out, but consuming it would be fine.

Abby Schelew, a spokesperson with the city, wrote that anyone who continues to have issues can contact the city at (867) 920-5600.

Cabin Radio first reported on the issue that began on Wednesday. Greencorn said he initially hoped it would be flushed out of the system by Thursday, but that it depends how often residents run water in their home.

On Thursday, at around noon, Buckoll and another resident of the School Draw area, Katrina Nokleby, said the taste and smell of their water continued to be off.

Nokleby said she typically notices a bit of a chlorine taste in her water, but on Thursday she found it had a dirt taste that was "almost musty."

City switching water source back to the Yellowknife River

The reason the city needed to switch its water source in the first place is because of ongoing infrastructure issues with pipes in the city.

The city went to its backup source after an unexplained increase in outflow from a pumphouse in the city. The city initially thought that might have been caused by seven pipe breaks that have since been fixed.

But in a document filed to the Mackenzie Land and Water Board, Greencorn wrote that after the repairs, the city saw "no significant drop in outflows."

Greencorn wrote, however, that things have stabilized and the city would return to pumping from the river, but there may be a need to switch back to the bay at a later point.

"So right now, we don't have a fulsome explanation other than a combination of factors such as warm weather consumption, several known leaks, and perhaps still unknown failures," Greencorn wrote.