Resolute’s riddle: sewage pipe or trucked pump-outs?

“It’s not as quick and easy a decision as we thought”


For more than a year the Government of Nunavut and the hamlet of Resolute have wrestled with the question of what to do with the community’s ageing piped water system.

“It’s falling apart,” said Matt Berrigan, junior engineer with Trow Associates, hired by the Department of Community and Government Services to look at the options for water and sewage delivery in Resolute “It was built in ’77.”

In Resolute, insulated above-ground and underground pipes bring in fresh water to the community’s 60 homes, businesses and public buildings.

Resolute’s water down flows from nearby Char Lake, thanks to the system set down by the Canadian military in the 1970s.

Starting in 2011, the GN had wanted the Resolute to switch over to a trucked water system, because consultants said it will cost $29.5 million to bring the hamlet’s utilidor up to par and build a sewage lagoon.

The cost of changing over to a trucked system has been estimated at about $10 million.

“[But] it’s more and more clear that it’s not as quick and easy a decision as we thought,” Berrigan said.

With a population of roughly 250, Resolute is the smallest community in Nunavut to enjoy a piped drinking water and sewage system.

The community’s small population made it possible for consultants to examine every single house and municipal or commercial building in town to figure how much it would cost to convert each of them to trucked water and sewage services.

That’s because trucked services require water reservoirs and sewage tanks either inside the building or in a heated utility shed. There also needs to be room for the truck to access them— so this means many buildings could face costly renovations.

In the central part of town, only the RCMP detachment is on trucked services.

Cost is also part of the equation for trucked services because this option still means more money over the long-term for more trucks, fuel, maintenance and drivers as well as the need for a heated water facility for the trucks to fill up.

But continuing with the piped system also involves solving the costly challenge of safely disposing of waste water.

Right now Resolute’s sewage pipes take the waste to a macerator, which grinds up the waste and then spews it into the ocean untreated.

That’s no longer an option due to current environmental laws.

So Resolute also needs either a sewage lagoon or a new mechanical sewage treatment plant.

And there’s another problem.

The piped system now in place relies on gravity to move the fresh water from the treatment plant at Signal Hill to the community, and then the waste water from the community downhill to the macerator on the shore.

But, because gravity-fed pipes can only head downhill, this would put a sewage lagoon right below the community.

“You don’t want that, obviously,” Berrigan said.

A sewage lagoon near the airport already serves the few buildings on trucked services.

Many in Resolute want to hang on their piped water service.

And while the start-up cost for this system was “humungous,” over the long-term it’s been more cost-effective than trucked services, Berrigan said.

“At the end of the day, we’re trying to put a number on the cost of a 30-year span of trucked services or piped water services,” he said.

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