Nunavut dust problems unsettling: Pangnirtung MLA

Pangnirtung MLA Hezakiah Oshutapik “can never get used to the dust”

By DAVID MURPHY

Plumes of dust, like this one spewing behind this dust-crusted pickup truck in Iqaluit, are common sights along the unpaved roads in Nunavut communities. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)


Plumes of dust, like this one spewing behind this dust-crusted pickup truck in Iqaluit, are common sights along the unpaved roads in Nunavut communities. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)

The dust debate picked up May 29 in the Nunavut legislature where Pangnirtung MLA Hezakiah Oshutapik squabbled with Lorne Kusugak, Nunavut’s minister of Community and Government Services, about dusty roads in Nunavut communities.

The money supplied to communities and the salt used on roads to keep dust from flying around has been a waste of money, and other solutions need to be looked at, Oshutapik said.

“At this current time, the dust suppressant application, in my opinion, just seems to be a money-wasting venture,” he said. “What would remediate the dust problem once and for all is if we put concrete on all the roads.”

Iqaluit provides a fine example of a place where dust is not a big problem anymore because the roads are paved, Oshutapik said.

But Kusugak said that paving roads is not a practical solution.

“Paving every road in Nunavut would be an exorbitant cost,” he said. “If we were to pave all hamlets, we would have to set aside large amounts of funding.”

Iqaluit may be a a good example of a place where there are fewer dust problems, Kusugak said. “But now, when you’re driving on the paved road, the problem is potholes.”

Oshutapik said he “can never get used to the dust, and if you meet anybody from Pangnirtung, they will probably raise the same questions.”

The dust season starts early in Pangnirtung because snow doesn’t settle on the ground due to high winds, so the community starts suffering with dust — and dust inhalation — as early as April, he said.

The salt is not just salt; it is calcium chloride and “it contains other substances,” argued Oshutapik. “So when it dries up, the dust suppressant itself is included in the dust, so it may cause respiratory problems if it’s inhaled.”

Kusugak admitted he didn’t know whether the use of calcium chloride can cause any health problems, but said “the product we’re currently using, which is sent to practically every community, is considered the best dust suppressant outside of Nunavut.”

“It does assist the communities to resolve the dust problem and it does keep down the dust a lot,” he said.

Kusugak did sympathize with Oshutapik. Kusugak said his home town of Rankin Inlet is often hit by high winds and experiences the same dust-related issues as Pangnirtung. He did concede that more research into finding a better solution would be a good idea.

“We have the best product currently available, but we will continue to look for new products and methods to suppress dust because everyone is always looking for a better solution to this problem.”

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