Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Iqaluit September 09, 2010 - 8:21 am

Biologist sounds alarm over polluted creek

“It has everything in it, including kitchen sinks”

GABRIEL ZARATE

A biologists says a creek which flows though contaminated land in Iqaluit may threaten human health.

Carney Creek runs from Iqaluit’s industrial North 40 sector into Airport Creek, and Andrew Medeiros, one of several scientists who have been sampling the waters of the area since 2005, says it brings contaminated water into close contact with a populated area.

“The water quality [of Airport Creek] poses a human health risk,” Medeiros told Nunatsiaq News. “We saw kids’ footprints right there next to shards of glass.”

This small waterway can support only the most metal-tolerant species of lifeforms, he said.

“Study after study after study is that there’s biological impairment in this stream,” Medeiros said.

Scientists should perform more intensive analyses on the water, sediment, and organisms to see if there could be a threat to human health, he suggested.

If a creek in a populated area of southern Canada appeared to have the same poor water quality as Iqaluit’s Airport Creek, the local government would have addressed it immediately, he said.

“We’re been trying to get the GN to deal with the obvious problem of airport creek for some time,” Medeiros said. “It has everything in it, including kitchen sinks.”

The Government of Nunavut has known about the problem in Airport Creek for years, according to a GN environment incident report dated Aug. 28, 2003, which noted Carney Creek – which feeds into Airport Creek – demonstrated an “oily slick” over several days.

The report, written by Robert Eno, a former environmental inspector with the Department of Environment, said the slick did not have any obvious origin related to a spill.

Eno speculated that the slick had emerged in the wake of recent rainfall, which leached old fuel out of the contaminated soil.

“The responsible party should be advised of the situation and should be issued a directive to take steps to deal with it,” Eno said.

Eno, now director of environmental protection division with the Nunavut department of environment, said the unclear ownership of the area is the reason why nothing has been done.

“It’s a complex issue,” Eno said. “The ownership is complex.”

Eno explained that according to Canada’s environmental cleanup legislation the “polluter pays.”

But since the 1940s many different organizations have used that land with little regard to long-term environmental impacts, he said.

“There was no such thing as environmental protection in the 1960s,” Eno said. “It’s basically sloppy housekeeping on the part of the people who were here.”

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