'We need a sure course of action.'

Iqaluit seeks solutions as dump overload looms


Faced with a full landfill site, Iqaluit city council members gave their new director of engineering the go-ahead last week to develop a new solid waste management plan pronto.

They asked him to bring a proposal back to the engineering and public works committee of the whole by March 31, detailing options for landfill, recycling and incineration, with possible new landfill locations, and estimated costs for the various options.

Engineering director Bruce Rines said the current landfill site is "virtually full" right now. But by moving things around and raising the fill height by one or two metres, the city might buy itself another two to three years of use from the site – at most.

By then, he said, the city absolutely must have its new landfill up and running, so that there is at least some overlap period.

Since taking up his new position as engineering director Dec. 15, Rines, has wasted no time, ploughing through up to 15 different reports on Iqaluit's landfill situation, the oldest dating back to 1983 and the most recent just a couple of years old.

They include reports on cleanup of previous waste-disposal sites, an environmental site assessment and remediation options for former sites, an operations and maintenance manual for the current solid-waste facility, and a sewage sludge management plan.

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There is also a study from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and Environment Canada, that includes testing and analysis of soils, water and plant life that details the cleanup needs for six former waste-disposal sites within the city and a former military installation.

All those sites will have to be dealt with, Rines said, but "surprisingly, the situation is not as bad as some people might think."

"We have more than enough studies related to the landfill," Rines told councillors meeting in the committee of the whole.

He said he just needs to consolidate the collected information, and add some field-survey and contaminant-testing data of prospective sites, to pull together a proposal.

This needs to be an operations plan, he stressed. It would not be a long-term strategy. The committee needs enough information "to come to a correct decision about how to proceed."

"We need to commit to a sure course of action."

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Working with consultants to prepare a first draft of the solid-waste management plan, to put in a application for funding to the First Nations Infrastructure Fund, and to do summer field work should cost the city about $250,000, Rines suggested.

His preliminary estimate for identifying a new landfill site and getting it ready to use, and for cleanup of other sites, is about $12 million.

He called that a "class C" estimate, however, meaning it could be off by as much as 30 to 40 per cent.

"That means it could be $12 million, or it could be $20 million," said councilor Claude Martel. "We don't know."

The First Nations Infrastructure Fund is a federal matching grant program, which would match funds contributed by the city dollar-for-dollar.

Rines also suggested Iqaluit may be able to access some of the new infrastructure funding the federal government has promised to help boost the economy. But the city may have to move quickly, he speculated, as the funding might be available on a first-come-first-served basis.

Councilor Jim Little told Rines he has several more studies in his possession he would be glad to share. He said that a few years ago, the city "put the incineration option through the wringer," and found it too expensive to be feasible due to the small scale of operations in Iqaluit. As well, nobody wanted to be downwind of the incinerator.

But he said that the technology may have improved since then, and thought it might be possible to separate wood and other burnables during waste collection, and recapture heat energy from them through incineration.

One option for dealing with cleanup of former sites, Rines said, is to "encapsulate the material permanently in a frozen mass," basically by integrating it as part of the permafrost.

It's an economical way to deal with landfill in the North, he explained, that has been used successfully in Alaska and Yukon.

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