Sewage spill shuts Kingait Inn

Merde miasma engulfs &#39d;owntown; Cape Dorset


The return of warm weather will bring a distinct and unpleasant odour to downtown Cape Dorset – the stink of raw sewage.

But more important than the bad smell will be the environmental and health hazard posed by what is basically a giant melting ice cube of sewage beneath the Kingait Inn.

Cape Dorset Mayor Cary Merritt estimated about 100,000 litres of sewage and grey water has leaked underneath the hotel, in an area closed off with plywood skirting, since sometime around freeze-up last fall.

The estimated size of the leak, he said, is based on the difference between the amount of water pumped into the hotel, and the amount of sewage pumped out of the holding tank.

Environmental health officer Ken Klassen from Nunavut's Department of Health and Social Services ordered closing and cleanup of the Kingait Inn on May 6, immediately after investigating the situation.

The public health order also requires the operator to:

  • "immediately fence off the area around the spill to prevent human and animal contact;"
  • "remove and ensure proper disposal of spilled sewage from the area;" and
  • "repair plumbing under the inn to prevent the discharge of sewage into the environment."

The hotel is owned by South Baffin MLA Fred Schell. Contacted by Nunatsiaq News, he declined to comment beyond saying, "I do own it, but I don't manage it anymore."

Since he was elected MLA for the riding in a by-election last fall, Schell said he has passed management of the hotel to Cheryl Constanteau.

"I know that everything is under control, though," he added. "And it was that way until somebody called the CBC and stirred everything up."

Calls to the hotel to reach Constanteau went unanswered.

The inn sits squarely in the centre of the community, across the street from the co-op store.

One source, which also estimated as much as 200,000 litres may have leaked out of the hotel, said children in town have been walking across the flood of frozen sewage that has seeped out from under the hotel.

However, "it wasn't clear there was a leak until it started becoming visible," when the sewage water began seeping out from under the plywood skirting beneath the building late in March, Merritt said in an interview.

"A lot of people were surprised."

He said there is a massive block of ice under the building where the "leaking sewage froze into a giant ice cube. They're going to have to melt it down to get at the plumbing."

The day after the health inspector closed the hotel, workers began attacking the problem, Merritt said.

They are creating a berm around the leak to contain it, he said, and "they're going to have sewage trucks come by and suck it up as it melts."

After the spill is cleaned up, a "proper plumber" will have to come in to fix the leak.

The health department was unwilling to offer any other comment beyond the bare bones of the public health order.

"We're happy to see an effort being made to clean it up," Merritt said, "but it's quite a prospect to get it completed. It's going to take time."

Although the Kingait Inn is not the only place in town to find a room for the night, it was the only restaurant in town.

"People are waiting to get back to the restaurant," Merritt said. "That's one comment I've heard."

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