MLA complains about Baker Lake sewage, hazardous waste pollution

Inspector recommended legal action against hamlet, GN


Moses Aupaluktuq, the MLA for Baker Lake, said Feb. 24 that he wants to know what the Government of Nunavut plans to do about the embarassing state of Baker Lake’s sewage and hazardous waste systems, where a variety of poisons are leaking into streams and lakes.

“During the last sitting, I tabled shocking photographs of Baker Lake’s municipal landfill which clearly illustrated the seriousness and magnitude of the situation,” Aupaluktuq said in a series of questions put to Lorne Kusugak, the minister of Community and Government Services.

In a report dated Aug. 31, 2010, federal water inspector Andrew Keim recommended that legal action be taken against the GN and the Hamlet of Baker Lake.

In his report, Keim found that Baker Lake pours raw sewage into a ditch, which then flows into a lagoon.

From there, the sewage flows into a small lake, and then down an incline into another lake.

Keim’s report also said the surface of the two lakes displayed a sheen consistent with hydrocarbon pollution.

“It is suspected that that sheen is from hydrocarbons leaching into the effluent stream from hazardous materials and waste oil storage adjacent to the lagoon. Leaks and spills of waste oil and other unidentified products were noted on the ground and in the wetlands,” Keim said.

The inspector also found a huge mess at Baker Lake’s municipal dump.

Keim said in his report that construction materials and hazardous waste, such as old batteries, are stored in the burn area of the dump and that insulation had recently been burned there.

And in the hazardous waste area, he reported the improper storage of batteries.

“The batteries need to be properly crated and shipped off site. A large number of these batteries were broken open and on the ground. No liner was present,” Keim said in the report.

He also reported the improper storage of drums and waste oil containing unknown fluids.

“They are stored haphazardly and without any form of secondary containment. Many leaks and spills from these barrels were noted throughout the facility,” Keim reported.

Those leaks and spills of hazardous material are likely mixing with sewage effluent, Keim said.

Despite all that, the Hamlet of Baker Lake received a water licence from the Nunavut Water Board shortly before the inspection was done.

But Keim noted that the Government of Nunavut owns and controls the pumping station and water treatment system in Baker Lake, but has done so without a water licence, in contravention of the law.

And he also said the Hamlet of Baker Lake hadn’t filed any legally required reports in five years.

Because of all these problems, Keim said that “formal enforcement action up to and including legal proceedings against both the Government of Nunavut and the Municipality of Baker Lake is warranted in these circumstances and are recommended.”

The relevant enforcement agency, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, has yet to take any legal action on these and other environmental messes produced by Nunavut municipalities.

Meanwhile, Kusugak responded to Aupaluktuq’s questions by saying the GN is now doing a review of waste disposal sites, potable water, waste water and solid waste management, which he said should be done by the end of March.

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