NEWS: Nunavut February 23, 2016 - 11:15 am

Iqaluit to move ahead on sewage treatment, new landfill

With federal regulators snapping at their heels, city officials must move ahead



City of Iqaluit administrators will move ahead on two big pieces of municipal infrastructure, Matthew Hamp, Iqaluit’s director of public works and engineering, said Feb. 22 at a meeting of the city’s engineering and public works committee.

The city will issue a request for proposals to design an upgraded waste-water sewage treatment plant on Feb. 26, and an RFP by March 31, to design and find an exact site, from a previously selected zone, for a new landfill.

The plan would move the city from primary to secondary sewage treatment and reduce the risk of depositing contaminated effluent into Koojesse Inlet.

An application to help fund the $26 million sewage treatment project has not been approved yet by Infrastructure Canada under the Building Canada Fund so the city will use money from the federal gas tax fund to pay for the project while waiting for approval.

In June of 2015, the city council of the day learned $16.8 million had been provided for the project in the city’s capital plan, creating a $9.7 million shortfall.

The Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs had ordered the city to upgrade its plant to provide secondary sewage treatment by Dec. 31, 2018.

That’s because the current treatment plant provides primary treatment only and high levels of toxic waste have been discharged into Koojesse Inlet.

Federal officials warned the city about it at a behind-closed-doors meeting on Jan. 14, 2014 — but the public didn’t find out about those warnings until May of that year.

Because of that 2018 deadline, the city must move forward, despite not knowing whether Ottawa will fund it, Hamp said.

If the Building Canada funding comes through, the gas tax can be used to fund other city projects, he said.

City councillors chose to overhaul Iqaluit’s existing facility, with the possibility of future expansion, an option presented in a 2014 feasibility study.

Hamp also provided an update on Iqaluit’s water and sewer operating costs, saying that trucked services cost the city five cents per litre, while piped service cost 1.1 cents per litre.

Coun. Gideonie Joamie pointed out that certain sections of the system “need fixing each and every year” asking “what’s failing?”

Hamp said differential movement between water access vaults and pipes, potentially related to climate change, is causing most of the problems and that public works staff are looking into possible fixes, including installing flexible couplers.

In January 2016, Iqaluit’s public works department repaired four water main breaks, one freeze-up on Federal Road, and one blockage resulting in a back up, Hamp said.

The city has had to rely on costly contracted services to repair malfunctions in the water system because city equipment is shared across departments and Iqaluit lacks back ups for critical pieces of equipment. For example, last fall, the city’s only excavator failed, Hamp said.

Coun. Kuthula Matshazi said the cost difference between trucked and piped services is “really hitting us” and felt the city would be “negligent” if it didn’t look into ways to switch the city to more piped service that is resistant to climate change impacts.

Research and development, according to Hamp, is “not what the city does” adding “if I spent time dealing with all the people that want to do research here, I wouldn’t get anything done.”

Matshazi said that the city’s “refusal” to invest in research will prevent it from achieving long term savings.

Hamp said his department is waiting for funding approval for one feasibility study to convert one area of the city from trucked to piped water.

The new landfill site is to be located about 8.5 kilometres northwest of the city centre.