Federal government starts long-awaited cleanup at Nunavut’s Ennadai Lake
Arviat will serve as base for removal of contaminated soil, abandoned debris
For more than 60 years, the infrastructure for a signal and weather station has sat on the shores of Ennadai Lake, 370 kilometres west of Arviat.
The area is one of more than 300 contaminated sites identified across Nunavut, and it’s about to get a major cleanup.
The Ennadai Lake weather station is the most recent of Nunavut’s contaminated sites slated for remediation, a process that began in 2004, overseen by the federal department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
There is an estimated 10,000 litres of fuel on site, located in storage tanks and barrels, some of which has leaked into the ground over the years.
It’s believed that some 500 cubic metres of hydrocarbons may have leached into the soil at the site.
“The site has a long history — it had multiple uses over the years,” said Natalie Plato, the Iqaluit-based director of lands and contaminated sites at AAND.
The site at Ennadai Lake was originally a Department of National Defence signal station, constructed and operated during the 1950, Plato said.
Transport Canada took it over in the 1960s, building and operating a manned weather station until 1979.
The site was then transferred to Environment Canada, which built a new unmanned weather station just to the east of the original site, which continues to operate today.
In 1993, two pieces of land on the site were designated Inuit-owned under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, under the management of the Kivalliq Inuit Association.
The soil contamination is a concern for Arviammiut who have historical ties to the site. AAND has held community consultations in Arviat, to be sure residents know about the project.
“A big item that came up is the historical site that’s associated with the weather station,” Plato said, referring to what was once a traditional camp at Ennadai Lake.
“The area is of deep significance to some community members who were born and raised there, or whose ancestors were.”
It’s also part of a painful history for the Inuit who once called the area home. The Ahiarmiut people were relocated from the area starting in 1949 and moved into communities along Hudson Bay such as Rankin Inlet, Whale Cove and Arviat.
A group called the Ennadai Lake Society has filed a special claim against the federal government, hoping for an official apology.
The area where the Ahiarmiut lived is located on the southern boundaries of the weather station site, although little remains except for scarring on the land.
During a trip to the site late summer, Plato’s department took a group of Arviammiut to visit the site, including one elder who was born at Ennadai Lake.
The site reveals the area’s more modern history too — the infrastructure first built in the 1950s remains today: a cluster of white cabins and a storage shed with red tin rooves.
Those structures are often used by hunters, although Plato said the buildings are no longer safe.
The structural integrity is poor, she said and there are also leads, paints made with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and asbestos in the buildings.
That’s in addition to the thousands of liters of fuel on site, some of which has leaked into the ground.
There are also empty fuel drums and other debris littering the site.
As part of the clean-up, “we are going to remove any hazardous waste and contaminated soil, which will be back-hauled to Arviat and sealifted south,” Plato said.
“We’ll also make a small landfill on-site for unwanted debris.”
Earlier this year, Plato’s department awarded the clean-up contract to Rankin Inlet-based Kudlik Construction, which is now mobilizing equipment in Arviat, the project’s base community.
And that’s good news for people in Arviat who are looking for work, said Keith Collier, the community’s economic development officer.
“Kudlik will be doing some local hiring and will be offering training on their Challenger tractors for up to 10 Arviammiut, and we’re hoping for more training opportunities as well,” he said.
“I think that Arviammiut’s historical ties to the area is driving interest in working there.”
In the spring, Kudlik will move a dozer, a loader, ATVs and light hauling trucks to the site overland via a CAT train.
Remediation work won’t begin until the summer of 2014, Plato said, and likely take two years to complete.
Once the clean-up is complete, there will be none of the original physical structures left.
AAND has agreed to leave a shelter on-site, as requested by the hunters and trappers organization in Arviat. Plato said that could be a new structure built by the Kudlik crew to use during the clean-up.
Of the 350 sites and waste sites across Nunavut that AAND is responsible for, 10 sites have been remediated and 25 sites are part of the department’s long-term plan.
You can read more about them here.