Arviat residents oppose location of proposed fuel tank farm
Facility to be built near fishing spot; residents fear potential impact on environment
A group of Arviat residents wants the GN to delay the rezoning of an area in the hamlet where a new petroleum tank farm is to be built, citing concerns over its possible impact on people’s health and the environment.
The project, composed of three tanks to provide bulk diesel fuel storage to the community, has long been in the works.
Information on the Nunavut Planning Commission’s website indicates Arviat’s current tank farm requires major expansion and code upgrades, and the optimal solution is to build a new facility on the Nuluaqturvik area, on the community’s east side.
Instead of three 3.3-million-litre diesel storage tanks, the GN’s petroleum products division now wants two 5-million-litre diesel tanks and one 1.5-million-litre tank to store jet fuel.
The hamlet council has held public consultations over the past two years and has voted in favour of the project.
The petroleum products division needed the hamlet council to rezone the land before it can begin work. The rezoning made it through council, and now it’s up to Community and Government Services Minister David Joanasie to decide whether or not the bylaw should stand.
Nooks Lindell, a resident who lives with his family a short distance from the proposed location of the new tank farm, is leading a community effort to stop the project in its current form.
According to Lindell, the area where the tank farm is to be built is where people set up their fishing nets and go digging for mussels.
He said he’s worried about how the facility would impact the health of residents as well as their access to resources.
“It’s a really important part of town, even though it seems empty right now, it’s kind of perfect the way it is,” Lindell said in an interview.
“We want it to stay empty and we don’t want a huge petroleum fuel tank farm there.”
Although consultations took place two years ago, Lindell said people weren’t properly informed about the process.
He agrees that the existing tank farm likely needs to be replaced. However, he said, the rezoning process was rushed and people weren’t given adequate time to hear about concerns.
One such concern is the potential for a fuel spill.
In April 2021, nearly 10,000 litres of fuel spilled from Baker Lake’s tank farm, posing a risk to the community’s water supply.
“Projects like this need consultation of the people that are going to be affected right from the start,” he said.
“Because we end up being in these positions where we speak out and say we don’t want it, we’re getting bullied into feeling selfish that we’re scared for our health and our children’s health.”
Lindell and other community members have launched a petition on Change.org asking that Joanasie put the project on hold so it can be re-evaluated.
As of early Thursday the petition had more than 500 signatures.
Lindell also published an open letter to Joanasie detailing his numerous concerns.
Joanasie, who is in Ottawa for a week of political meetings with federal partners, declined to be interviewed.
However, his staff forwarded a written statement to Nunatsiaq News in which Joanasie acknowledged he is aware of Lindell’s petition and letter.
“The decision on the location of this asset is one that has been carefully considered by the municipal council in consultation with residents,” Joanasie said.
“I will review the proposed zoning bylaw and the process followed in developing it to ensure compliance with relevant legislation and alignment with the long-term needs and interests of the community.”
Arviat’s mayor and senior administrative officer have also both acknowledged Lindell’s petition.
“The petition has not been submitted to us as of yet and we will have a statement from [the] mayor and council,” said Mayor Joe Savikataaq Jr.
“I will gladly [do an] interview once that statement has been released.”
Arviat’s council meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month.
SAO Steve England said council reviews information packages that are submitted prior to meetings. After that happens, council could release a statement.
Lindell encourages other Nunavummiut to be engaged in what’s happening in their communities when it comes to projects with potentially major environmental impacts.
“I know, especially for us Inuit, it’s hard,” he said.
“We’re so used to being quiet and just listening to authority and not rocking the boat, but we got to start speaking up about this stuff while it’s happening, before it’s happening, and not afterwards on Facebook.”