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Iqaluit residents ponder city’s plan for new landfill site

Proposed waste management program “a reasonable step forward,” city says

By PETER VARGA

Meagan Leach, director of engineering and sustainability for Iqaluit, presented residents with the city’s plan for a new solid waste management program July 17. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)


Meagan Leach, director of engineering and sustainability for Iqaluit, presented residents with the city’s plan for a new solid waste management program July 17. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)

The City of Iqaluit wants to build its new waste disposal facility at an area 8.5 kilometres northwest of the city centre called the Northwest site, shown in this map from 2011. Three other possible locations were too close to the airport. (FILE IMAGE)


The City of Iqaluit wants to build its new waste disposal facility at an area 8.5 kilometres northwest of the city centre called the Northwest site, shown in this map from 2011. Three other possible locations were too close to the airport. (FILE IMAGE)

Some Iqaluit residents aren’t convinced that the city needs a new dump site located far from the built-up area of town, as proposed in the city’s new waste management plan.

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The city’s department of engineering and sustainability heard those objections during a public consultation July 17, when it explained a plan to create a new solid waste management site 8.5 kilometres northwest of the city centre.

“I don’t like the idea of just taking out another nice site, we’ve already got enough garbage dumps and so many impacted sites around here,” said Iqaluit resident Robert Eno.

“I realize you’ve got your limitations, but my preferred option as a citizen is to take a site that’s already impacted rather than a site that’s new,” Eno said.

Eno was among 40 to 50 residents who filled Abe Okpik Hall in Apex to see the city’s proposal.

Rather than dump all waste into one landfill, the future facility at the “Northwest site” will collect food waste, plant matter, paper and cardboard separately for composting.

The material will break down using an “open windrow method,” which involves piling waste in long rows. This will be used as landfill to cover other solid waste.

The plan also features:

• a re-use centre where unneeded items can be salvaged;

• a bulky recycling program to receive scrap metal, appliances, tires and electronics that will be stored and shipped to recycling facilities in the south;

• an “end of life vehicles program,” to remove hazardous waste and re-useable material from cars and trucks; and,

• a household hazardous waste program.

The site will be located next to a future source of gravel for the public works department, so that costs of a new road to the area, amounting to 3.8 km, will be shared.

Iqaluit’s director of engineering and sustainability, Meagan Leach, described the program with waste management planner John Smith of the firm Exp – including the rationale for selecting the plan as the best of four options.

Eno and no fewer than four other residents complained the city has a history of dumps and hazardous sites, and wondered why waste management planners would not include an incineration plant in their plans.

“We have old facilities, old sites all over this community,” said long time resident Jim Little, who once served as a city councillor.

“How much stuff in buried around town? You name it, it’s all over the place,” Little said.

Little said landfills simply crush and compact garbage on the land, and “extending the mess” was not the answer. Another man pointed to one of the city’s other options, which included incineration.

The city’s informational newsletter, offered to all residents, showed that this option kept the most waste out of the landfill – up to 67 per cent as compared to 44 per cent under the “open windrow compost” option.

“Incineration does have some concerns for us,” said Leach, who pointed to high costs and the greater complexity of such systems.

“You’re going to have to almost double the waste management budget in order to operate an incineration facility at the site,” said Smith.

The city estimates that the annual operating costs of a compost-plus incineration plan come out to $1.69 million a year, compared to $870,000 a year for the preferred option.

Maintenance of such an incineration system in the Arctic is more complicated than anywhere else in the country, he added, due to a lack of specialized skills and parts.

Leach said that the city’s proposal does not rule out the possibility of incineration in the future.

“In fact, if you’re going to do incineration, you would need to do this step [the proposed plan] first,” she said.

“You need to properly sort out your waste, and you need to get your organics [food and plant matter] out of there as much as possible.”

Space constraints for waste disposal within the city include a federal regulation that no site may be located within four kilometres of the airport.

The city’s current dump “was developed haphazardly over time,” Leach said Leach, and was only meant to be a short-term landfill.

“People at the landfill are working really hard, and in a difficult situation where we’re really near capacity until we get a new landfill site,” the engineering director said.

“This is the most reasonable step forward for what our situation is, and it’s a big step forward.”

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